Creed. The Rocky franchise was thought to be over with the 2006 release of Rocky Balboa. But when writer-director Ryan Coogler was able to successfully pitch a spin off involving the son of Rocky’s rival-turned trainer Apollo Creed, the producers of the Rocky series – including Sylvester Stallone – all signed off the project and came aboard as producers. Creed stars Michael B. Jordan as Adonis Johnson, the son of Apollo Creed by way of the fighter’s extra-martial affairs. Following the death of his mother, Adonis bounces around foster homes and youth facilities, before Apollo’s widow, Mary Anne (Phylicia Rashad) takes him in to provide him much needed stability and direction. But like his father, Adonis wants to fight and travels to Philly to seek out Rocky to become his trainer. Together they form a bond that transcends outside of the sport – especially when Rocky is faced with the biggest fight of his life. Adonis must come to terms with his legacy – and his future – when he takes on light heavyweight champion ‘Pretty’ Ricky Conlan (Tony Bellew). Coogler, in his first film since his critically acclaimed debut, Fruitvale Station, pulls off the difficult feat of remaining true to the original Rocky films but also charting a new course and direction into the narrative. Jordan, who got his breakout role in Fruitvale Station, is terrific as Adonis, the man trying to live up to his late father’s name yet still trying to make a name for himself. Stallone once again shows that beneath the bravura, he has considerable acting chops, adding experience and wisdom to the project. Tessa Thompson, who was fantastic in Dear White People and Selma, adds to her impressive resume as Bianca, the singer-songwriter who becomes involved with Adonis. She’s not just window dressing – Thompson gives the character depth, purpose and more than holds her own within the male-dominated cast. With a solid story, great direction and outstanding fight scenes, Coogler has put together a film that can promises to be the next great franchise. Creed is in theaters now. You can also go to www.creedthemovie.com or more information.
A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was the Christmas special that no one wanted. A Charlie Brown Christmas featured actual children (with no acting experience) reading angst-ridden lines, had a message that slammed how commercialism was ruining the true spirit of the holiday, a jazz soundtrack (when rock n roll was king) and had a major character read about Christmas’ origins directly from The Bible. Despite its misgivings, CBS aired the special, thinking it would air once and would be quickly forgotten. Much to their surprise, A Charlie Brown Christmas connected with audiences across the age spectrum, becoming a holiday staple. Now celebrating its 50th Anniversary, ABC (which now runs the special), has put together ‘It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown’ a one hour special that will be hosted by Kristen Bell. It will feature the memorable music of Vince Guaraldi, musical performances by Sara McLachlan, Boyz II Men, Kristen Chenoweth, The All-American Boys Chorus and much more. It will then be followed by the 50th airing of the Charles Schultz classic. ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’. Two great hours for the entire family. It will air on Monday, November 30th, starting at 8pm Eastern. You can also go to www.abc.com for more information.
Punks, Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys 1977-1982 by Marcia Resnick. When photographer Marcia Resnick set up shop at a Tribeca studio loft in the mid 70s, little did she (or the rest of us) know that she would be capturing the movers and shakers that made up the New York downtown counterculture scene. With her latest book, Resnick recalls the vital period featuring intimate shots of Andy Warhol, David Byrne, William S. Burroughs, Mick Jagger, and Lou Reed, among others. Resnick also includes photos that she took of John Belushi, in what would be his last official photo shoot before his death in March 1982. If you want a inside look at who and what made the downtown New York City scene happen, Resnick’s book puts you front and center. Punks, Poets & Provocateurs: New York City Bad Boys 1977-1982 is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers.
Over The Top And Back by Tom Jones. Throughout his six-plus decade career, Tom Jones has seen his fair share of highs and lows. He collected all of these stories in his new memoir, Over The Top And Back. He recalls his Welsh upbringing as the son of a coal miner; getting married and becoming a father before most of his peers were graduating from high school; the series of odd jobs that he took before becoming a singer, and how the success of such songs as ‘It’s Not Unusual’, ‘Delilah’, and ‘What’s New Pussycat?’ made him an international sensation and sex symbol. Jones also tells memorable encounters with the New York mob, Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Jerry Lee Lewis, Janis Joplin, and Elton John, among others. He’s also blunt and straight forward about how a series of bad decisions nearly derailed his career, and how playing up to his sex symbol image almost cost him his marriage. Everyone loves a comeback and Jones goes into detail into what led him to record his comeback single, a cover of Prince’s ‘Kiss’, why he stopped dying his hair and his recent series of critically acclaimed albums that have marked a return to his blues, R&B and gospel roots. Candid, informative and highly entertaining, Tom Jones has put together one of the better rock-based memoirs to come out this year. Over The Top And Back is available now through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all major book retailers. You can also go to www.tomjones.com for more information.
Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings by Kurt Cobain. When researching material for his documentary on the late Kurt Cobain, Brett Morgen came across what can be described as the grunge Holy Grail: Over 200 cassettes featuring home recordings Cobain made throughout his brief, but memorable career. The best of those recordings are the basis of the first official Kurt Cobain’s first solo album. In addition to a slew of audio collage experiments, there’s also a aching cover of The Beatles’ ‘And I Love Her’ and demo versions of future Nirvana classics, ‘Something In The Way’, ‘Been A Son’, ‘Francis Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle’ and much more. The recordings reveal as much of Cobain’s psyche as they do his creative process, giving you an unique insight of what made him tick. A solid companion piece to go with the film. Montage Of Heck: The Home Recordings is available now through Amazon, Itunes and all major music retailers.
St. Cecilia by Foo Fighters. After months of teasing, Foo Fighters gave their fans an early Christmas present with this new – and free – 5 song EP. Written and recorded during days off on their tour in support of ‘Sonic Highways, several tracks echo the band’s punk roots (‘Sean’, ‘Savior Breath’), while the title track and the closer, ‘The Neverending Sigh’ captures them in their full arena rock glory. Foo Fighters have been one of the most consistent bands of the last 25 years and this EP continues that solid streak. St. Cecilia is available now as a free download though www.foofighters.com.
NEW YORK CITY: Todd Haynes: The Other Side Of Dreams. Though he was only made six feature films, Todd Haynes is already regarded as one of the most respected directors in cinema. To coincide with his latest release Carol, The Film Society Of Lincoln Center will be hosting a retrospective of his work, along with the films that inspired him. Far From Heaven, Safe, Velvet Goldmine, I’m Not There will be featured alongside such classics as Klute, The Reckless Moment and a rare screening of D.A. Pennebacker’s seminal Bob Dylan doc Eat The Document. A great to review the work of a true original and get a bit of Hollywood history lesson too. Todd Haynes: The Other Side Of Dreams will be at The Film Society Of Lincoln Center through Sunday. You can go to www.filmlinc.org for ticket and a complete rundown of events.