Better Things. The Emmy Award nominated series from Pamela Adlon and Louis C.K. returns for its second season. Adlon stars as Sam Fox, an L.A. based actress trying to balance her career, raise three daughters with very distinct personalities, deal with her mother (Celia Imrie) who lives across the street, and try to find time for her and her friends. This season finds Sam making the uneasy transition into middle age. two teenage daughters that keep her on her toes (and on edge), her youngest daughter entering elementary school and navigate increasingly murky dating waters. Adlon, who also co-wrote, directed all of this season’s episodes, doesn’t cut any corners with the material. It’s sharp, fast, unpredictable, real and, much like real life, very funny. She was always a solid comedic actress, but now she’s hitting full stride as a writer and director. She’s up for an Emmy this year and if this is any indication, she’ll be up for a few more. Better Things airs Thursday nights at 10pm Eastern on FX. You can also go to http://www.fxnetworks.com/ for more information.
Vice Principals. School is back in session and so is the ‘final semester’ of this HBO series from Danny McBride and Jody Hill. It picks up in the spring, with Neil Gamby (McBride) and Lee Russell (Walton Goggins) now ‘interim co-principals’ of North Jackson High School. Gamby’s recovering from gunshot wounds he sustained at the end of last season, and has become obsessed with finding his still at large assailant. He re-teams with Russell figure out which, of his long list of enemies he assemble during the course of the school year, tried to take him out. They must also make their case to have the ‘interim’ tag removed from their new titles. For Gamby, the ‘investigation’ only fuels his paranoia, making him less trusting of everyone around him, including Russell. Once again, McBride and Goggins are in peak form as the frenemies now trying to share the ultimate prize in the high school teacher hierarchy. They wonderfully walk the fine line between sympathetic, pathetic and downright sociopathic while maintaining a high level of dark comedy. Enjoy the ride this season because as the promos have said, it also comes to an end. The new season of Vice Principals premieres Sunday, September 17th at 11pm Eastern on HBO.. You can also go to www.hbo.com for extras and more information.
The Vietnam War. The war in Vietnam ended over 40 years ago, but it still continues to have a profound impact on those who fought it and their families. The latest PBS documentary series from Ken Burns and Lynn Novick is an exhaustive look at the conflict that took the lives of nearly 58,000 U.S. soldiers as well as millions of Vietnamese soldiers and civilians. Interviewing over 80 witnesses – including those who fought on the winning and losing sides, those who protested against it, and Vietnamese civilians – we get a fresh perspective on the war whose ramifications are still being felt today. We also get a new glimpse at how the war was waged on the political front and how the U.S. went from sending a few military advisors to becoming active participants. Loaded with archival footage and a haunting score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Burns and Novick have connected the dots on a war that we are still trying to understand. The Vietnam War premieres September 17th at 8pm Eastern on PBS. You can also go to http://www.pbs.org/ for more information.
The Force. The relationship between the Oakland Police Department and the people they have sworn to protect has always been contentious. Cases involving police misconduct and abuse has been so frequent that the OPD was under a federal monitor for close to a decade. In 2014, Sean Whent was hired as the Chief of Police with the task of bridging the divide between the community and its officers. What unfolded is the subject of this new documentary from Peter Nicks. He puts us right there with the officers as they try to shed a legacy of corruption while facing the growing Black Lives Matter movement that grew in the wake in a new wave of police-related shootings. From roll call to squad car rides, you are right there with the officers as they deal with working in a city with a alarmingly high crime rate. We also get to see all sides of the Black Lives Matter protests that erupted of several high profile shootings that happened in the area and around the country. Probing and multi-dimensional, Nicks has crafted a searing doc that deals with the many facets involved in being in law enforcement. The Force opens in select theaters nationwide this weekend. You can also go to http://www.kinolober.com/ for more information.
Shade by Living Colour. In 2012, Living Colour was invited to take part in a centennial celebration for blues great Robert Johnson at The Apollo Theater. They performed a roof shaking version of ‘Preachin’ Blues’ that owed more to Cream than it did to acoustic Mississippi Delta blues. Inspired by the reception, the New York based quartet decided to use the blues – and all of its complexities and permutations that it spawned – as the impetus for their long awaited 6th studio album. Working with producer Andre Betts (Madonna, Chaka Khan, Lenny Kravitz), they make the cultural connection between Johnson (‘Preachin’ Blues’), Marvin Gaye (‘Inner City Blues’) and The Notorious B.I.G. (‘Who Shot Ya?’) while expertly displaying how the blues and hard rock are only separated by volume. ‘Who’s That’ – featuring a nasty slide-fused intro by Vernon Reid – morphs into a monster blues jam that sounds like Otis Redding sitting in with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band (Former DDBB member Big Sam Johnson guests on trombone). While the bulk of ‘Shade’ was written during the Obama years, the material sounds like it could have been ripped right from yesterday’s headlines,. The punk inspired rave up ‘A Pattern In Time’ shows how many of world’s social ills really hasn’t changed throughout the years. It also throws in a sly nod to their 1990 classic, ‘Time’s Up’. ‘Freedom Of Expression (F.O.X.)’ is all sides look at how speaking one’s mind has consequences, good and bad. ‘Program’ is a biting look at how the impact of so-called ‘reality shows’ has made its way into every day life. Gaye’s ‘Inner City Blues’ – done here as a muscle car rocker – still sounds like it could’ve been written yesterday. The new album also showcases Living Colour moving relentlessly into the future. ‘Come On’ is a funk infused future anthem, while ‘Blak Out’ and ‘Always Wrong’ puts the otherworldly talents of bassist Doug Wimbish on full display. The band is firing on all cylinders: vocalist Corey Glover once again shows why he’s one of rock’s top vocalists nearly 30 years into the game; the same for Vernon Reid, as his fret work, slices, dices throughout each song. Every great rock band needs a top flight rhythm section and they don’t get any better than Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun. Big credit must also go out to Andre Betts for incorporating new sonic nuances into the tracks without sacrificing the essence of the band’s sound. It might have been 8 years between releases, but it was certainly worth the wait. An instant classic and one of the year’s best. Shade by Living Colour is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.
New Magic by Son Little. Aaron Livingston, better known by his stage name Son Little, is a Philly based singer-songwriter, who made a number of guest spots on albums by The Roots, Mavis Staples and RJD2, among others. His first, full length, self titled album, drew critical raves for its blues, gospel, folk, soul and hip hop underpinnings while his live shows became must see events. A trip to Australia’s Northern Territory helped Son Little break out of a minor bout of writer’s block and became the fuel for his eagerly awaited sophomore effort. It picks up where the debut album left off, with Little’s husky, yet haunting voice anchoring a series of songs that recall old school rhythm & blues, rock and the blues, but all within a 21st Century context. It’s a refreshing slab of organic soul music free of all of the current bells and whistles that are attached to today’s pop music. Another winner from one of the music’s brightest new talents. New Magic by Son Little will be available this Friday through Amazon, iTunes and all digital music outlets.
The Creative Destruction Of New York City: Engineering The City For The Elite by Alessandro Busa. When Bill de Blasio for Mayor in 2013, he made more affordable housing for poor and middle class New Yorkers a central focus of his campaign. But in this new book by urban scholar Alessandro Busa, not only was that campaign promise hollow, but there’s an ongoing campaign to do just the opposite. Busa travels to Harlem, Coney Island, Manhattan’s Far West Side and East New York, to show how nearly two decades of rezoning, rebranding and a LOT of sweetheart deals between the city and real estate developers has divided the greatest city in the world into two types of people: The very rich and the very poor. As for the middle class, Alessandro paints an even bleaker picture which shows how one more rent hike can put them in the ranks of the displaced. If this wasn’t bad enough, the book shows how New York City’s urban development has shifted to meet the consumption demands of the rich. The only ray of hope offered is the grassroots efforts by long time New Yorkers to stem this tide and the fact that a majority of new buildings have remained vacant. If you don’t think it will happen in your city, Busa also shows how urban development leaders have been monitoring – and in some cases following – New York City’s plan. Serving as both a requiem and a warning, Busa has been together a chilling look at how the identity of the nation’s greatest city is slowly been taking away. The Creative Destruction Of New York City by Alessandro Busa is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.
New York City. Film Is Like A Battleground: Sam Fuller’s War Movies. The films of Samuel Fuller were low budget, brutally honest stories that showed the darker side of the human condition. It’s no wonder that he had a profound influence on directors such as Martin Scorsese, Jim Jarmusch, and Curtis Hanson. While he directed westerns and urban dramas, Fuller best excelled in war films, drawing heavily on his experiences in World War II, as well as the socio-political fallout centering around The Korean War, the war in Indochina and The Cold War. The Museum Of The Moving Image will salute the work of Samuel Fuller with a 10 day retrospective featuring his stark portrayals of life on and off the frontlines. The series will include The Steel Helmet, Fixed Bayonets, Merrill’s Marauders, House Of Bamboo, Pickup On South Street, and Hell And High Water, among others. Also included is A Fuller Life, a documentary on Fuller directed by his daughter Samantha; and The Big Red One, Fuller’s 1980 epic that was originally cut by over 40 percent, but restored in 2005 with over 40 minutes of restored footage. There will also be guest introductions and post screening Q&A’s for select screenings. It’s a powerful and fitting tribute to one of cinema’s greatest mavericks. Film Is Like A Battleground: Sam Fuller’s War Movies will be at the Museum Of The Moving Image September 15th through the 24th. You can go to http://www.movingimage.us/ for a complete rundown of films, tickets and additional information.
New York City: Kara Walker. The latest exhibit from the controversial, critically acclaimed artist is scaled down considerably from her massive 2014 exhibit ‘A Subtlety’, but it still packs an emotional and visceral punch. It’s a series of paintings and drawings that stab deep into the heart of how slavery, white supremacy and racism has affected – and continued to affect – live here in the United States. Walker connects everyone from Frederick Douglass, James Brown, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Trayvon Martin to The Confederacy, the KKK and the current President with full force, full power and zero apology. It’s jolting, thought provoking, profane, and absolutely breathtaking – sometimes all at the same time. In short, it will blow you away. The must see exhibit of the year. It’s at the Saatchi.