Blade Runner 2049.. 35 years after the original, the sequel to the Ridley Scott sci-fi classic returns to theaters. Scott is on board as Executive Producer with Denis Villeneuve (Arrival) directing. Set 30 years after the original, it stars Ryan Gosling as LAPD Officer K, a new Blade Runner who unearths a secret that could plunge what’s left of the world into chaos. To prevent this from happening, he must track down two people who hold the key: Niander Wallace, who now oversees the creation of replicants; and former Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who hasn’t been heard from in over 30 years. The filmmakers have asked that key plot points be kept under wraps, but rest assured, the script – co written once again by Hampton Fancher – expands on many of the themes addressed in the original. Gosling is perfectly cast as K, bringing a measure of cool as the newly minted Blade Runner out to discover an ultimate truth. He’s only eclipsed by Ford, who brings a sense of grizzle and world weariness as the long retired Deckard. Leto is also strong as the mysterious, yet formidable Wallace, looking to leave his mark on what’s left of the world. But the real stars of the film are Villeneuve, cinematographer Roger A. Deakins and Production Designer Dennis Gassner. The visuals they have created echo Scott’s original vision, but take it to an entirely new level. It will totally blow your mind. Anyone who was skeptical about a sequel to one of the greatest Sci-Fi movies ever, will be pleased to know that in many ways, it transcends the original. One of the year’s best. Blade Runner 2049 opens this weekend. You can also go to www.bladerunnermovie.com for more information.
Earth: One Amazing Day. Robert Redford narrates this startling new documentary that follows the Sun’s path for 24 hours and how it affects all of Earth’s creatures. Directed by Richard Dale, Lixin Fan and Peter Webber, the doc takes us across the continents, through skies and oceans, taking breathtaking detours to see its inhabitants interact throughout the day. The footage is incredible, capturing emotion, nuance and above all, the beauty and wonder that is contained within it. It will make you rethink how we want to treat the planet and how we see it. Earth: One Amazing Day opens in select theaters this weekend. You can also go to www.earthoneamazingday.com for more information.
The Florida Project. Director Sean Baker’s follow up to the critically acclaimed Tangerine is a unique, yet powerful look at the joys and wonders of childhood. It follows the day to day life of Moonee (Brooklynn Kimberly Prince), a 6 year old who lives at The Magic Castle with her mother Halley (Bria Vinaitel). Located just a few miles from Disney World, The Magic Castle is anything but, a cheap three story motel that pulls in customers who think they are staying at The Magic Kingdom. Halley eeks out a living selling perfume out of shopping bags to neighboring hotels. Moonee spends her days with a group of friends doing a range of activiites that range from playful to destructive. Keeping an eye on her and the motel is Bobby (Willem Dafoe), the gruff manager who serves as Moonee’s father figure and foil. Moonee’s loose and carefree life is on a collision course with the realities of Halley’s real life struggles – which is pushing Halley into a lifestyle that threaten to shatter an already fragile dynamic. Baker, who also co-wrote the script, graduates into top filmmaker status with this carefully nuanced story on the beauty and wonder of youth, while also spotlighting what he called ‘America’s hidden homeless’. The performances are simply electric: Prince all but carries the film as the mischievous Moonee, balancing the line between innocence and attitude. It’s hard to believe that she has that much poise and confidence for a 6 year old. Vinaitel also puts in a solid turn as Moonee’s mother, trying to carve out a new life for her and her daughter.. The always solid Dafoe puts in a career-defining role as the world weary Bobby, who tries to keep this roaming band of kids at bay, but still manages to sympathize with the situations that put them there. It’s a moving, poignant work about those on the outer fringes of society that should not being forgotten during awards season. One of the year’s best films. The Florida Project opens this weekend.
Ash by Ibeyi. After exploring the theme of resilency in the midst of profound personal loss, the sophomore album by twin sisters Lisa and Naomi Diaz focuses their minds and spirits on perservance through resistance. Once again produced by XL Recordings label head Richard Robinson, the ladies once again fuse passionate, urgent vocals sung in English, Yoruba, and Spanish wth elements of electro-soul, jazz, hip hop and Afro-Cuban. They also draw from experiencs personal and historical. ‘Deathless’ tells of Lisa’s run-in with a cop who mistook her for a drug dealer and user when she was 16. Excerpts from a Michelle Obama speech highlights ‘No Man Is Big Enough For Arms’, a song that turns the former First Lady’s words into an anthem of enpowerment. The album’s centerpiece is ‘Transmission/Michaelion’, which features their mother reading portions of ‘The Diary Of Frida Kahlo in Spanish and a inspiring rap by Mala Rodriguez. With additional appearances by Kamasi Washington and Meshell Ndegeocello, Ibeyi has put together another work that is spekas of the moment, yet transcends time. Ash by Ibeyi is available now through Amazon, Itunes, and all major music retailers.
The Harmony Of Difference by Kamasi Washington. After blowing away fans and critics with ‘The Epic’, saxophonist Kamasi Washington is back with a new EP. Though it only clocks in at 32 minutes, there’s still a lot to chew on. With titles such as ‘Humility’, ‘Perspective’ and ‘Knowledge’, Washington and his crew of world class musicians touch upon everything from traditional jazz, funk coated smooth jazz, and Brazilian rhythms into one seemless suite. Capping off the EP is ‘Truth’, a 13 minute opus that is both a summation of the previous tracks and hints at what lays ahead. Whereas ‘The Epic’ was like sitting down for an opulent musical feast, this EP works like a fine, yet fulfilling dessert. Another masterpiece from jazz’s next great voice. The Harmony Of Difference is availalble now thorugh Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
A New Career In A New Town (1977-1982) by David Bowie. By the end of 1976, David Bowie was at a career crossroads. After successful forays into glam, soul and funk, he was on top of his game musically. On a personal level, Bowie was in the throes of a serious cocaine and alcohol addiction that left him pale and emaciated. Looking to regroup, Bowie moved to West Berlin and became part of its growing art and music community. Teaming up with producer Brian Eno, Bowie would record some of the most complex and experimental music of his career. This new box set captures all of the music that Bowie and Eno would make during this fruitful period – the studio albums Low, Heroes, Lodger, Scary Monsters and the live set Stage. The set also includes single versions, French and German interpretations of key tracks, rarities, new mixes, a hardcover book of unpublihed photos, handwritten lyrics, stories by long time producer Tony Visconti and much more. It’s the most comprehensive look at an aritst at his most free wielding and carefree, shedding one skin, settling in and finding a new dynamic creative voice. A must have for Bowie fans new and hardline. A New Career In A New Town (1977-1982) by David Bowie is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers. You can also go to www.davidbowie.com for more information.
Eight Years We Were In Power: An American Tragedy by Ta-Neishi Coates. The eagerly awaited follow up to his best selling book Between The World And Me looks at race through the prism of the election of the the first Black President Of The United States. It culls eight essays that Coates wrote for The Atlantic leading up to and during the Obama Adminstration, concluding with the inguaration of the 45th President. At the center of this collection is ‘A Case For Reparations’, Coates’ critically acclaimed article that lays out chapter and verse how racism played into everything in policies that had, on the surface, good intentions. Coates also writes new introductions to each piece to provide the context in which the story was written. It’s at times, a crushing look at how the country went from being on the precipse of truly fulfilling its promise, to regressing – quietly, then abruptly – back to the daker side of its past. The book also shows Coates’ development as a writer charting his rise into becoming one of the top social commentators today. A powerful, probing work. Eight Years We Were In Power by Ta-Neishi Coates is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.
New York City. Items: Is Fashion Modern? This current exhibition looks at how 111 items of clothing and accessories – present. and past have had a strong cultural impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries. Pieces range from the sari, pearl necklace and Ray Ban aviator sunglasses, right up to the platform shoe, the jumpsuit, leather jackets, and Levi’s 501 jeans. It also shows the evolution of the brand T-shirt (from Mickey Mouse through The Rolling Stones, Black Flag, Run-DMC and Nirvana); and how the sports jersey went from fashion statement (Michael Jordan’s 23 jersey) to politcal statement (Colin Kaepernick’s 49er jersey). It’s a barrage of color and clothing that serves as both time capsule and history lesson. Items: Is Fashion Modern? will be at the Museum Of Modern Art through January 28th. You can also go to www.moma.org for tickets and additional information.
Los Angeles. Beyond Fest. Quiet as its been kept, some of the most memorable films – and the people who helped make them – have their roots in B-movies or ‘genre films’. Fans of this forum will be out in full force as The 5th Annual Beyond Fest returns to the greater Los Angeles area. Highlights include a series of double and truiple features with Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme – with both actors scheduled to appear for Q&As; directors Edgar Wright and Walter Hill discussing the art behind filming a car chase – and a car crash; and the West Coast premiere of Brawl In Cell Block 99 starring Vince Vaughn and Don Johnson. There will also be special screenings of Night Of The Living Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in honor of George Romero and Tobe Hooper – both of whom passed away earlier this year. Whehter you like horror flicks, action movies or suspense thrillers, this is the one festival to get your film fix. Beyond Fest runs through October 10th. You can also go to www.beyondfest.com for a complete schedule of events, tickets and more information.