Leaving Neverland. When Dan Reed’s four hour Michael Jackson documentary screened at Sundance, it was widely reported that the audience left in a state of shock. The Jackson estate immediately slammed the film as ‘the kind of tabloid character assassination Michael Jackson endured in life, now in death’. Now the public will get a chance to make up its own mind as the doc debuts on HBO this weekend. The first half centers James Safechuck and Wade Robson, who were both befriended by Jackson when they were children, and, as they claim, endured sustained abuse while staying at the Neverland ranch. Though they were a few years apart, and from different parts of the world, their stories share a familiar pattern: from childlike playing to sexual advances, long lectures about not trusting your parents and women; and to disclose what was happening in the series of tucked away bedrooms and secret rooms. The second half covers the 1993 case against Jackson by 13 year old Jordan Chandler, and despite what they claimed happened to them later on, felt the need to defend Jackson. The trial’s outcome, according to Safechuck and Robson, triggered various PTSD symptoms, which they are still navigating through, even though they are now married with children. There’s a lot to absorb here: the psychological aftermath of abuse, how brushes with celebrity can skew your moral compass and the complexities behind loving someone who is also hurting you. Reed clearly chooses a side here, but still manages to leave enough room for the audience to make up its own mind. It’s a documentary that will continue to fuel the discussion on sexual abuse. Leaving Neverland premieres on Sunday, March 3rd on HBO. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
Apollo 11. As the nation prepares the celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Moon landing, this new doc from director Todd Douglas Miller puts us at the center of the mission in a way that will totally blow your mind. Working from 11,000 hours of uncatalogued audio and newly discovered 70mm footage, Miller presents this momentous event from three different perspectives: The team at Mission Control, the millions of spectators on the ground, and of course from the astronauts who took humankind one giant leap into the cosmos. Miller craftily lets the footage do the talking, showing how the crew on Earth put in the exception time and effort getting the craft into space and extraordinary efforts made by Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, James A. Lovell, Jr, William Anderson and Fred Haise, Jr to make the mission one for the ages. It’s a film that will renew our love to see what’s beyond the stars. One of the year’s best. Apollo 11 opens March 1st. You can also go to www.apollo11movie.com for more information.
Better Things. After show writer and producer Louis CK confirmed that the number of sexual allegations against him were true, there was concern that Pamela Adlon’s critically acclaimed series would be collateral damage in FX’s ending of their production deal with the comic. Fortunately, the show is back for Season 3, with Louis CK out as writer/director/producer and Adlon fully oversees all aspects of the program. It continues the story of Sam Fox, a single mother of three coming to grips with aging, three daughters dealing with boy trouble and puberty, and her mother’s increasing mental health issues. As always, the mix of comedy and drama is the show’s strength, along with the outstanding cast. A much welcomed return to one of TV’s best shows. Season 3 of Better Things tonight on FX.
This Land by Gary Clark, Jr. As he began work on his 3rd major label studio album, Gary Clark, Jr found himself at a musical crossroads: Does he bring in a big name producer to help capture the explosiveness of his live shows? Work with outside collaborators to produce a pop hit? Abandon his explorations into other genres and go for a traditional blues sound? Instead, Clark decided to bunker in Arlyn Studios in his hometown of Austin, produce the record himself, and do most of the musical heavy lifting, playing guitar, bass and keyboards on the bulk of the tracks. The result is Clark’s most pointed, personal, and political record to date. ‘This Land’ is a funk-rock middle finger to all of the racists he’s had to deal with then – and now – in his native Texas. to those who think Black folk don’t have a stake in the nation. The album also puts an introspective spin on something every musician has to deal with: The need to fuel their passion to play music versus the extended trips away from their families. Effortlessly shifting from blues, funk, 80s-era R&B, and punk, Clark has signaled a bold new direction in what has already been an outstanding career. This Land by Gary Clark, Jr is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major streaming services.
South Of Reality by The Claypool Lennon Delirium. The 2nd collaboration between Les Claypool and Sean Lennon continues to explore their love for psychedelic and prog rock. It continues the experimental leanings that incorporations of odd time signatures and Middle Eastern influences that jazz greats such as John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders embraced in the 60s and early 70s. There’s also a number of lyrical nods to Charles Bukowski, rocket scientist Jack Parsons, and our dependence of medication. With great musicianship and extended jams, it’s a perfect soundtrack for any extended trip. South Of Reality by The Claypool Lennon Delirium is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
Orson Welles Portfolio. In addition to being one of the greatest filmmakers, writers, storytellers and actors, Orson Welles was also a skilled painter and graphic artist, studying art at the Art Institute of Chicago and continuing to draw, sketch and paint throughout his life. Originally, this work was only intended for his own private amusement and for outlines for productions. But now this new book collects some of the best of this art work and really gives new insight into Welles’ creative process.
Whether its self portraits and outlines to some of his greatest films, this is a must have for any Welles fan. Orson Welles Portfolio is available now through Amazon, Barnes and Noble and all major book retailers.
New York City: Jean Michel Basquiat. The Brant Foundation will launch its new East Village location will be a full blown retrospective of New York’s greatest contributor to the art world. Foundation founder Peter Brant has been a Basquiat collector since the 1980s and will feature some of his most seminar works along with other masterworks from other museums and private collections. The buzz on this show is high, so get in early for your chance to see an all time great. Jean Michel Basquiat at The Brant Foundation Art Study Center through May 15th. You can also go to www.brantfoundation.org to reserve your tickets and for more information.