Night Of Too Many Stars. The Theater at Madison Square Garden will drowning in laughs as Jon Stewart host this annual benefit. Chris Rock, Sarah Silverman, Robert DeNiro, Adam Sandler, Edie Falco, Ben Stiller, Stephen Colbert, and Olivia Munn are just some of those scheduled to appear in short films, sketches and, of course, stand up to raise money for autism programs. Given how the world of comedy has taken some big hits due to death and scandal, expect emotions to be raw, honest and yes, funny. Night Of Too Many Stars will air live on November 18th at 8pmEastern on HBO. You can also go to www.hbo.com and www.toomanystarshbo.com for more information.
Bill Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray’s Extra Innings. The Murray brothers love for baseball – particularly minor league baseball – is the heart of this new 10 episode unscripted Facebook Watch Series. They travel to various minor league cities – including the St Paul Saints and Charleston Riverdogs in which Bill Murray is a part owner – to interact with the players, fans and the local communities, with the humor and heart that we have come to know and love. They don’t entirely leave out MLB: Bill and Brian also make memorable treks to the MLB Urban Youth Academy in Kansas City and The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum. Bill, Brian and Baseball – what can be better? A perfect way for fans to scratch their itch until spring training. Bill Murray and Brian Doyle-Murray’s Extra Innings will air Monday nights on Facebook Watch.
Baltimore Rising. In 2015, Baltimore was a city about to explode. The circumstances surrounding the death of Freddie Gray’s death while in police custody sparked mass peaceful protests, violent clashes with police and culminated with a riot. This new HBO documentary from Sonja Sohn (The Wire) shows how police, community activists, residents and politicos responded, the efforts put forth by all sides to make sense of it all and the baby steps that were taken to move forward together. While the protest footage – most of which wasn’t covered by mainstream media – is compelling, its the boots on the ground coverage of the strategy sessions and face to face interactions with all affected parties is what really pulls you in. The story of Kwame Rose, who drew national attention with his stirring on air confrontation with Fox Correspondent Geraldo Rivera, is particularly moving, tracing his evolution from a mad-as-hell protestor to community leader. It’s a powerful look at a crucial moment in the new civil rights struggle. Baltimore Rising premieres November 20th at 8pm Eastern on HBO. You can also go to www.hbo.com for more information.
Mudbound. The new Netflix original film from Dee Rees (Pariah, Bessie) is an extensive, epic look at post-war life in the South. Using multiple narrators, it tells the story of two families: The Jacksons, led by Hap and Florence (Rob Morgan, Mary J. Blige) who sharecrop on the land owned by The McAllans, fronted by Henry (Jason Clarke) and Laura (Carey Mulligan). Henry doesn’t have the sharp business and agricultural acumen needed to tend the often harsh Mississippi Delta soil, so he relies heavily on the Hap and Florence, whose dreams of owning their own land are met with the systematic economic inequalities that often came with sharecropping. Both families’ lives change with the end of World War II and the return of Henry’s brother Jamie (Garrett Hedlund) and Ronsel, (Jason Mitchell) Hap and Florence’s oldest son. Both are combat veterans and they form a friendship based from those experiences. They also share a similar view of a much broader, inclusive world, incurring the wrath of Jamie’s racist father (Jonathan Banks), tests the dynamics of both families and ultimately, puts their friendship through the ultimate test. Rees – who also co-wrote the screenplay with Virgil Williams – can now add her name as one of the best directors in the game, capturing all of the social, economic and political nuances and intricacies of the American South that is not so eager to move with the oncoming shifts. Working with cinematographer Rachel Williams, you can almost feel the stifling heat, strained muscles toiling the soil. All of the performances – particular Mitchell, Hedlund, Mulligan and a breakout performance by Mary J. Blige – are outstanding. Tamar-Kali Brown’s haunting string-laden score will reduce you to mist. This is good old fashioned epic filmmaking breaking new ground on issues that we are still grappling with today. One of the year’s best. Mudbound will open in select theaters this weekend and is available now on Netflix.
Mosaic. Steven Soderbergh’s new HBO limited murder-mystery series will get a traditional roll out in January, but this new app allows you to control the manner in which you wish to take the journey. You can watch the film in full screen, immersive mode; select which characters perspective you want to follow throughout; sort through voicemails and emails between various characters, read police reports and news clippings, then go back and view the other characters viewpoints to get a complete multi-dimensional look at the full story. Soderbergh has always tried to take the film watching experience to a new level and with project, this is a dramatic leap forward. Mosaic is available now through the Itunes App Store.
Soul Of A Woman by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. Sharon Jones had just completed work on the band’s 7th album before passing away last November after a lengthy bout with cancer. The sense of urgency and the immediacy runs through the set, which captures the white hot dynamics that can be heard at the live shows. Jones, as always, is singing her heart out, not sounding at all like someone who was undergoing treatment in between shows and sessions. While the band doesn’t stray from the 60s horn-driven R&B sound that has become their calling card, they also venture in 70s funk, and the last third features Jones’ soulful vocals augmented with string arrangements that only hint where Jones and The Dap Kings were heading next. ‘Call On God’ has Jones come full circle, showing off her gospel chops and reminding us of the deep connection between gospel and soul. This is a fitting and moving coda to an all time great. Soul Of A Woman by Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings is available now through Amazon, iTunes and all major music retailers.
New York City. John Cale 75th Birthday Celebration. The musical arc of John Cale’s career reads like a mini 50 year history of avant-garde entering mainstream rock culture: As a member of the Velvet Underground, Cale was the X factor to one of the most influential rock bands in history. His production work on albums by The Stoogesand Nico laid the groundwork for both punk and goth. Cale’s solo efforts ran the gamut between punk, noise-rock, singer-songwriter, neo-classical, and chamber pop.
As Cale turns 75, he’ll team up with The Brooklyn Academy Of Music to present a retrospective will cover all phases of his career, including a full performance of The Velvet Underground’s landmark debut album, right down to highlights from his highly eclectic and dynamic solo career. It’s a much deserved victory lap for one of rock’s true visionaries. The John Cale 75th Birthday Celebration runs through Saturday. You can also go to www.bam.org for tickets and more information.
Los Angeles. The Great Los Angeles Walk. In 2006, journalist and blogger Michael Schneider started The Great Los Angeles Walk to celebrate 10 years living in L.A. Since then, it has attracted people from all of the region as a means to experience the rich and diverse business, culture and institutions in and around in The City Of Angels. If you are concerned about cars, don’t worry – there will a number of street closures along the route to insure that your walk is traffic free. With great weather, plenty of food and drinks and all around cool vibes, this is a great way to get in some exercise, support the local scene and show love for the city. The Great American Walk takes place this Saturday starting at 9am. You can also go to www.greatlawalk.com for all details.