Music: The Ivory Bills on Thurs., Feb. 7, at 8 PM

Ivory_Bills_WebThe Ivory Bills are three guys who like to rock—mostly on original songs by bassist James Velvet, but also on some choice, quirky covers. They’ve released one album and two EP’s in their four year career. Their 2012 highlight was opening for Roseanne Cash on the New Haven Green for the Arts and Ideas Festival.

Read what others have written about The Ivory Bills:

Brian LaRue, New Haven Advocate:

James Velvet and friends (John L. – guitar, Johnny Java – drums) masquerade as a simple, salt-of-the earth bar band… They almost get away with it, unless you listen closely and hear how Velvet’s expert sense of narrative plays out; how the sing-songy verses build into broadly tuneful choruses; how the band’s kinda-bluesy chug reveals a sharp knowledge of rock ‘n’ roll traditionalism. If you know Velvet’s stuff, this is what you might expect from him in rock mode — and it’s just as inspired, human and humane as you’d hope.

Gary Vollono, IndepenDisc.com:

Tight & Tasty. Truly honing the power trio concept with balance, not bombast.

A video of James Velvet and the Ivory Bills live:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Monday, Feb. 11. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? FILM SERIES: GONE BABY GONE

• Wednesday, Feb. 13. EARLY MUSIC/CLASSICAL: RAVENNA MICHALSEN & ALEXANDER SMITH

• Wednesday, Feb. 20. JAZZ: THE ELLIGERS BROTHERS BAND

• Thursday, Feb. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE STREAMS DUO

• Wednesday, Feb. 27. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Thursday, Feb. 28. ART SONG WITH TUNED WINE GLASSES: JONNY RODGERS

• Wednesday, Mar. 6. BRAZILIAN MUSIC & JAZZ: SAMBELEZA with JEFF FULLER & ISABELLA MENDES

• Thursday, Mar. 7. INDIE ROCK: SIDEWALK DAVE

• Saturday, Mar. 9. ACOUSTIC CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIAN MUSIC: HADE & WILLIAMS

• Wednesday, Mar. 13. ACOUSTIC BLUES & ROCK: NOAH KESSELMAN

• Thursday, Mar. 14. WINE TASTING with KARL RONNE from THE WINE THIEF

• Wednesday, Mar. 20. JAZZ: DAVID CHEVAN

• Thursday, Mar. 21. INDIE GARAGE ROCK: GHOST OF CHANCE

• Sunday, Mar. 24. READINGS: JOEANN HART & MATT DEBENHAM

• Wednesday, Mar. 27. PUNK ROCK: STARK RAVING LULU

• Thursday, Mar. 28. FILM SCREENING: STEPHEN DEST’S “MY BROTHER JACK”

• Wednesday, Apr. 3. INDIE ROCK: LYS GUILLORN BAND

• Thursday, Apr. 4. CLASSICAL: HAVEN STRING QUARTET

• Thursday, Apr. 11. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ANNE MARIE MENTA BAND

• Wednesday, Apr. 17. SINGER-SONGWRITER: ESTHER GOLTON

Music: Jack Vees on Wed., Feb. 6, at 8 PM

Jack_Vees_WebJack Vees will perform at the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Feb. 6. The music starts at 8 PM and there is a $5 cover charge.

Jack Vees has been active as a composer and bass guitarist since the mid 1970’s. While still in college he had the opportunity to play with a diverse array of jazz and rock luminaries from Gerry Mulligan to Toots Thielmanns to Carmine Appice. In 1981 his “The Book on Bass Harmonics” was published by Alfred Music and cemented his reputation as a creative visionary of the instrument.

Vees will be performing a solo set, including lots of pedals and an occasional laptop digital frippery, playing a number of unusual low end guitars, including an 8-string bass and a 12-string baritone guitar.

As a composer he has worked with many of the most creative ensembles in the contemporary music scene.  Yet at the same time his works have resisted fitting into any one style, and have been performed from the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam to CBGB’s in New York, and his recording of “The Restaurant Behind the Pier” stands as a unique example of an entire CD comprised of pieces exclusively for bass guitar.  For the past 25 years he has taught at the Yale School of Music, where he is the director of the Center for Studies in Music Technology.

Jack Vees performing his bass guitar solo piece “Restaurant Behind the Pier”:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Feb. 7. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Monday, Feb. 11. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? FILM SERIES: GONE BABY GONE

• Wednesday, Feb. 13. EARLY MUSIC/CLASSICAL: RAVENNA MICHALSEN & ALEXANDER SMITH

Wednesday, Feb. 20. JAZZ: THE ELLIGERS BROTHERS BANDS

• Thursday, Feb. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE STREAMS DUO

• Wednesday, Feb. 27. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Thursday, Feb. 28. ART SONG WITH TUNED WINE GLASSES: JONNY RODGERS

New Releases 01/22/13

Top Hits

End of Watch (action, Jake Gyllenhaal. Rotten Tomatoes: 85%. Metacritic: 68. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “An ode to beat cops and the expansive literature on them, David Ayers’ End of Watch is a muscular, maddening exploitation movie embellished with art-house style and anchored by solid performances. As visually kinetic as it is politically dubious, it sings the song of two Los Angeles police officers, Brian [a good Jake Gyllenhaal] and Mike [an equally fine Michael Peña], brothers in blue who roll in a black and white. Like the cops in Joseph Wambaugh’s 1970 novel The New Centurions they are soldiers amid, in Mr. Wambaugh’s roll call, ‘whores, flimflammers, paddy hustlers, hugger muggers, ex-cons of all descriptions, and anybody else with a kink of some kind or other.'” Read more…)

Searching for Sugar Man (documentary, music, Rodriguez. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are several entrancing mysteries circulating in Searching for Sugar Man, a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing. One mystery involves its title subject, a Detroit singer-songwriter known as Rodriguez who, after being discovered in a dive bar, cut a well-regarded record in 1969. The album, Cold Fact, earned good reviews and four Billboard stars, but it bombed in the United States, and Rodriguez faded from view. Where he went and why are just a few of the questions that a Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, sought in answering the riddle of Rodriguez.” Read more…)

Pina (Wim Wenders-directed dance doc, Pina Bausch. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The cumulative effect is exhilarating and also a bit frustrating, since so many dances are included and woven together the audience does not have the chance to experience any single work in its entirety. But the power and intelligence of Bausch’s approach, which at times seems more cerebral than sensual, is communicated. And there are moments when her discipline and Mr. Wenders’ visual instincts harmonize perfectly, so that instead of enduring yet another well-meaning specimen of ‘dance on film’ you are experiencing dance and film, fully and simultaneously.” Read more…)

For a Good Time, Call… (comedy, Ari Graynor. Rotten Tomatoes: 56%. Metacritic: 55. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The enterprising New York women who establish a flourishing phone sex business in the boundary-breaking farce For a Good Time, Call… know how to talk the talk. But can they walk the walk? The running joke of this fizzy, potty-mouthed comedy, directed by Jamie Travis, is that anyone with an erotic imagination — even the nicest of nice girls — can talk dirty and make money at it.” Read more…)

The Paperboy (noir, Matthew McConaughey. Rotten Tomatoes: 39%. Metacritic: 45. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “To attempt a simple description of The Paperboy is to risk exhausting the normal critical vocabulary. The movie, directed by Lee Daniels and adapted from a novel by Pete Dexter, is — for starters — a domestic melodrama, a Southern Gothic, a legal thriller, a coming-of-age-story, a high-toned sexploitation picture and an earnest lesson in journalistic ethics and race relations. None of that quite captures it, I’m afraid. The Paperboy is what cinema scholars [and speakers fluent in the film’s native idiom] might call a hot mess. I mean that at least partly as praise.” Read more…)

Nobody Walks (drama, John Krasinski. Rotten Tomatoes: 37%. Metacritic: 51. From Stephen Holden’s New York Times review: “The sultry wild child who dominates Ry Russo-Young’s acutely acted Nobody Walks is a type of femme fatale more likely to be seen in French cinema than in American movies. When Martine [Olivia Thirlby], a 23-year-old experimental artist from New York with a Jean Seberg pixie haircut, locks eyes with a man she fancies, he is a goner… Ms. Russo-Young’s third feature film, Nobody Walks [the title refers to the lack of pedestrians in Los Angeles], has a screenplay she wrote with Lena Dunham [Girls]. Its production values are minimal, but an excellent cast makes up for what it lacks in polish.” Read more…)

About Cherry (drama, Ashley Hinshaw. Rotten Tomatoes: 11%. Metacritic: 33.)

New Blu-Ray

End of Watch

The Paperboy

New Foreign

Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai (Japan, samurai drama, Koji Yakusho. Rotten Tomatoes: 80%. Metacritic: 76. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “A movie called Hara-Kiri: Death of a Samurai might reasonably lead you to expect an orgy of violence, especially since the director is Takashi Miike, a wildly prolific Japanese filmmaker best known for sanguinary delights like Audition and 13 Assassins. But Hara-Kiri finds this busy genre omnivore in a quiet, even classical frame of mind. More moving than shocking, it proceeds slowly and gracefully, and the few scenes of bloodshed are emotionally intense rather than showily sensational.” Read more…)

New Documentaries

Searching for Sugar Man (documentary, music, Rodriguez, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are several entrancing mysteries circulating in Searching for Sugar Man, a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing. One mystery involves its title subject, a Detroit singer-songwriter known as Rodriguez who, after being discovered in a dive bar, cut a well-regarded record in 1969. The album, Cold Fact, earned good reviews and four Billboard stars, but it bombed in the United States, and Rodriguez faded from view. Where he went and why are just a few of the questions that a Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, sought in answering the riddle of Rodriguez.” Read more…)

Pina (Wim Wenders-directed dance doc, Pina Bausch, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 83. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “The cumulative effect is exhilarating and also a bit frustrating, since so many dances are included and woven together the audience does not have the chance to experience any single work in its entirety. But the power and intelligence of Bausch’s approach, which at times seems more cerebral than sensual, is communicated. And there are moments when her discipline and Mr. Wenders’ visual instincts harmonize perfectly, so that instead of enduring yet another well-meaning specimen of ‘dance on film’ you are experiencing dance and film, fully and simultaneously.” Read more…)

Ballplayer: Pelotero (sports, economics. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 75. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Neil Genzlinger’s Times review: “Latin American names are common on major league rosters these days, but how those players end up in a Dodgers or Mets or Red Sox uniform may not be something the casual baseball fan has given much thought. Ballplayer: Pelotero is a stark documentary that examines that process in the Dominican Republic, a significant source of players. Forget feel-good boys-of-summer tales. This film shows a shady business in which scouts and the teams they represent try to manipulate teenage players, and to some extent the players do some manipulating of their own.” Read more…)

Samsara (nature, society, spirituality. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “Ron Fricke’s new film, Samsara, shot in a grand and vibrant 70-millimeter format — including some remarkable time-lapse photography — is partly a Sontagian case for sustainability. Or, to adapt the food-obsessed ecological language of the moment, it presents a visual argument for slow looking, for careful, meditative attention to what is seen. A spool of arresting, beautifully composed shots without narration or dialogue, Samsara is an invitation to watch closely and to suspend interpretation [another notion Sontag might have approved].” Read more…)

The Imposter (documentary, biography. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 77. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Like its smirking antihero and chief narrator, the serial con artist Frédéric Bourdin, The Imposter is slippery, manipulative, unstable and smoothly confounding. It’s also one of the most entertaining documentaries to appear since Exit Through the Gift Shop, a film similarly obsessed with role playing and deception. Cleverly deflecting our dislike of Mr. Bourdin’s smug narcissism and brazen amorality, the British director Bart Layton presents this bizarre true-crime narrative from multiple viewpoints. The resulting collage of interviews, re-enactments and home-video footage proves the perfect medium for the twisty story of Nicholas Barclay, a Texas teenager who disappeared in 1994.” Read more…)

Direct Your Own Damn Movie (movie-making how-to, Lloyd Kaufman of Troma)

New Gay & Lesbian

Keep the Lights On (drama, Thure Lindhardt. Rotten Tomatoes: 89%. Metacritic: 79. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “This summary — and I have only sketched the outlines of a wandering, episodic story — makes Keep the Lights On sound much more schematic, more like a morality tale, than it really is. Its subject is not addiction or ambition, or even love in a conventional romantic sense, but rather the more elusive and intriguing matter of intimacy: how it grows, falters and endures over time. The dialogue sometimes has a canned, hectoring sound, as if the actors had been called upon to announce their feelings rather than express them, but the look, mood and rhythm of the film are exquisitely, even thrillingly authentic. In scenes that jump from year to year and linger over significant, ordinary moments, Mr. Sachs captures the ways strangers turn into lovers and the equally scary and exciting ways that lovers can remain strangers.” Read more…)

New Music

Searching for Sugar Man (documentary, music, Rodriguez, in Top Hits. Rotten Tomatoes: 95%. Metacritic: 79.A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “There are several entrancing mysteries circulating in Searching for Sugar Man, a hugely appealing documentary about fans, faith and an enigmatic Age of Aquarius musician who burned bright and hopeful before disappearing. One mystery involves its title subject, a Detroit singer-songwriter known as Rodriguez who, after being discovered in a dive bar, cut a well-regarded record in 1969. The album, Cold Fact, earned good reviews and four Billboard stars, but it bombed in the United States, and Rodriguez faded from view. Where he went and why are just a few of the questions that a Swedish filmmaker, Malik Bendjelloul, sought in answering the riddle of Rodriguez.” Read more…)

Hank’s Recommendations 01/22/13

hank_paperEND OF WATCH — This movie, the title of which suggests multiple meanings, offers some somber shading of the mainstays of the buddy-cop film. It offsets cliches with fine acting and, at times, riveting suspense.

Jake Gyllenhaal (JARHEAD, BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, ZODIAC, OCTOBER SKY) and Michael Pena (TOWER HEIST, THE LINCOLN LAWYER, SHOOTER) show good jocular chemistry as they prowl their beat in the notouriously dangerous South Central district of L.A. On their watch they often watch themselves, playfully and sometimes clandestinely filming their encounters with felons, drug dealers, gang bangers, murderers—as well as those who simply need their help. The playfulness is no doubt compensation for their quite sober and sometimes life-saving professionalism. Whether the camera style is cinema verite or fixed, it doesn’t prevent us (or them) from keeping an out for what’s just around the corner. While not a path breaking film, we’re with these two characters all the way: this is an eminently watchable film.

In the wake (so to speak) of the scandal regarding Notre dame linebacker Manti Te’o’s fake online dead girlfriend, the movie (and subsequent terminology) CATFISH was often mentioned in the news. According to the New York Daily News, the term refers to enchanting someone through the Internet—reeling them in through an escalating torrent of emails and social media messages: in short, “catfishing” is engaging someone in a fake relationship online.

In the spirit of full, enlightened disclosure, here is my review of Catfish.

IMPERSONATION AND OBSESSION:

CATFISH — Web TV, a combination of computer and TV—internet surfing on your TV set—is all the talk these days, at least by manufacturers and programmers looking through rose-tinted glasses (some are no doubt 3-D) at the future embrace of this format. The idea of this combination has at least taken hold in some movies.

The movie Catfish is about a group of young men having fun social networking on Facebook—in this case establishing long distance “friendships” with a precocious twelve year old oil painting prodigy, her mother and much older beautiful sister. Photographs appear on the men’s computer screen, along with many paintings in the mail, and eventually a vicarious sexual relationship develops for one of the guys with the older sister. Until, that is, these computer-savvy guys happen to discover a couple of disturbing anomalies in the women’s ongoing “narrative.” And so they decide to take a cross-country trip to visit the family and see who they really are. It’s here that this combination of the web and TV takes on the gripping drama and suspense, the poignancy and scariness we might associate with many a good mainstream film, providing a cautionary tale for our time, and concluding in ways we don’t anticipate, no matter our filmic or computer savvy. This is an absorbing movie, not simply about Facebook (such as THE SOCIAL NETWORK), but actually utilizing its process on screen to dramatic effect. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is about Facebook. This absorbing movie uses its process as part of its impact.

Music: Ponybird on Thurs., Jan. 31, at 8 PM

Ponybird plays the Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, Jan. 31. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover charge is $5.

Influenced by the emotional roots of country, the confessional poetry of folk, and the spatial freedom of ambient and harmonic tones, Ponybird is the solo project of Jennifer Dauphinais, an evolving artist who translates something both introspective and infinite all at once. Both home-recorded releases—”Climb Yourself Up” and “Full Cold Moon”—were chosen as Top Ten Releases of the Year by the New Haven Register. Listening to Ponybird, puts the audience on the verge of discovering.

Jen Dauphinais, interviewed and performing on “Chip’s Unnamed Local Band Show”:

Dauphinais is known for performing with folk-roots innovator, Christina Abbott in their duo, The Karner Blues, as well as heavy rock bands, Belle Starr, The Editors, and Spider & Fly. Dauphinais also wrote for the New Haven Advocate entertainment section, and hosted a radio show on WYBC 1340 AM with co-host Craig Gilbert. As Daylight Photography, she is best known for capturing bands behind the lens (see Crooked Hook’s album cover “The Captain Will Be Your Guide”) and continues to ghost write for local venues, labels, and independent bands.

Ponybird’s YouTube video for their song “Let Something Fall Apart”:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Wednesday, Feb. 6. AVANT-GARDE: JACK VEES

• Thursday, Feb. 7. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Monday, Feb. 11. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? FILM SERIES: GONE BABY GONE

• Wednesday, Feb. 13. EARLY MUSIC/CLASSICAL: RAVENNA MICHALSEN & ALEXANDER SMITH

Wednesday, Feb. 20. JAZZ: THE ELLIGERS BROTHERS BANDS

• Thursday, Feb. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE STREAMS DUO

• Wednesday, Feb. 27. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Thursday, Feb. 28. ART SONG WITH TUNED WINE GLASSES: JONNY RODGERS

Music: Chrissy Gardner & Robert Messore on Wed., Jan. 30, at 8 PM

Chrissy_Gardner_Robert_Messore_72dpiChrissy Gardner and Robert Messore bring their version of acoustic soul to the Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, Jan. 30. The music starts at 8 PM and the cover charge is $5.

Chrissy Gardner is a singer/songwriter originally from Chicago, IL. Whether from behind a piano, holding a guitar or standing at the front of the stage with mic in hand, she belts out her tunes in a style that is often compared to both classic and contemporary singer/songwriters, but also has real shades of hard rocking Blues and R&B. On stage, Chrissy can effectively convey the depth of meaning in her music with her passionate voice and genuinely sophisticated and romantic piano playing, but when the time comes to get the crowd up and dancing, she can rock as hard as anyone.

Robert Messore (meh-sor’-ee) has been called “Connecticut’s finest fingerstyle guitarist.” He plays beautiful instrumental guitar music and he is noted for composing tuneful pieces that work well as music, and not simply as fancy guitar playing. Robert has been called “the Heart of the New Haven Folk Scene” for his vital and many-faceted contributions as solo performer, side man, recording artist, teacher and concert presenter (working on several concert series and the Connecticut Folk Festival).

When Chrissy Gardner and Robert Messore get together, their performances are full of vulnerability, triumph, and joy. Chrissy effortlessly embodies the spirits of soul, folk and contemporary music through her masterful songwriting and her shape-shifting voice that in one phrase can be as delicate and lovely as Joni Mitchell and in the next express the heart and soul of Janis Joplin. Robert has passionately devoted himself to the guitar for 30+ years and was voted Best Instrumentalist in a New Haven Advocate readers’ poll. Together, Chrissy and Robert make a kind of acoustic soul music that is sheer bliss.

The Best Video Coffee & Wine Bar will be open with a fine selection of delicious snacks and refreshments, including Willoughby’s coffee, wine and beer.

A YouTube video of Chrissy and Robert performing the Amy Winehouse song “Valerie”:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Jan. 31. PSYCH/FOLK: PONYBIRD

• Wednesday, Feb. 6. AVANT-GARDE: JACK VEES

• Thursday, Feb. 7. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Monday, Feb. 11. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? FILM SERIES: GONE BABY GONE

• Wednesday, Feb. 13. EARLY MUSIC/CLASSICAL: RAVENNA MICHALSEN & ALEXANDER SMITH

Wednesday, Feb. 20. JAZZ: THE ELLIGERS BROTHERS BANDS

• Thursday, Feb. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE STREAMS DUO

• Wednesday, Feb. 27. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Thursday, Feb. 28. ART SONG WITH TUNED WINE GLASSES: JONNY RODGERS

Music: Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps this Wednesday, Jan. 23, at 8 PM

Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps return to the Best Video Performance Space this Wednesday, Jan. 23. The music starts at 8 PM; the cover charge for this show is $5.

Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps–composed of Nathan Bontrager on cello, Adam Matlock on accordion, Michael Paolucci on percussion, and Brian Slattery on violin and banjo–plays as much music as it’s able to: blues and murder ballads, Eastern European folk, traditional music from North and South America, tango, swing, classical music, and the songs of contemporary songwriters (including Matlock), using the influences of the music they love to create fluid, improvised arrangements.

A YouTube video of Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps performing at the wonderful area music venue  The Outer Space in 2011:

UPCOMING PERFORMANCE SPACE EVENTS:

• Thursday, Jan. 24. No event.

• Wednesday, Jan. 30. ACOUSTIC SOUL: ROBERT MESSORE & CHRISTINE GARDNER

• Thursday, Jan. 31. PSYCH/FOLK: PONYBIRD

• Wednesday, Feb. 6. AVANT-GARDE: JACK VEES

• Thursday, Feb. 7. ROCK: THE IVORY BILLS

• Monday, Feb. 11. WHAT WOULD YOU DO? FILM SERIES: GONE BABY GONE

• Wednesday, Feb. 13. EARLY MUSIC/CLASSICAL: RAVENNA MICHALSEN & ALEXANDER SMITH

Wednesday, Feb. 20. JAZZ: THE ELLIGERS BROTHERS BANDS

• Thursday, Feb. 21. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE STREAMS DUO

• Wednesday, Feb. 27. SINGER-SONGWRITER ROCK: THE SHELLYE VALAUSKAS EXPERIENCE

• Thursday, Feb. 28. ART SONG WITH TUNED WINE GLASSES: JONNY RODGERS

New Releases 01/15/13

Top Hits

To Rome with Love (comedy/romance, Jesse Eisenberg. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 54. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “One of the most delightful things about To Rome With Love is how casually it blends the plausible and the surreal, and how unabashedly it revels in pure silliness. The plots, which are cut together in no special order, obey different time schemes: Antonio and Milly’s marital drama [which involves a prostitute played by Penélope Cruz, and a movie star played by Antonio Albanese] seems to occupy a single afternoon, while other strands stretch over weeks and months. They rarely intersect, forming a shuffled, syncopated anthology, a variation on the multi-director omnibus films that were a staple of Italian cinema in the 1950s and ’60s.” Read more…)

Taken 2 (action thriller, Liam Neeson. Rotten Tomatoes: 21%. Metacritic: 45. From Neil Genzlinger’s New York Times review: “You’d think that after what happened in the 2009 film Taken, Bryan, Lenore and Kim would think twice about vacationing outside the continental United States. But in Taken 2 they go abroad for some family bonding, and — wouldn’t you know it? — kidnappings again ensue, followed by killings.” Read more…)

Won’t Back Down (social drama, Viola Davis. Rotten Tomatoes: 33%. Metacritic: 42. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “If The Simpsons has taught us anything, it is that pious expressions of concern for ‘the children’ are usually evidence of a political agenda in overdrive. Won’t Back Down, a new schoolhouse melodrama starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis, presents an especially blatant example of this rule. A movie that insists, repeatedly and at high volume, that ‘it’s all about the kids’ might just cause you to wonder what else it is about, and this one is not shy about showing its ideological hand. Who, after all, could possibly be against kids? The film’s answer is one favored by some partisans in the raucous and confusing public debate about educational reform: teachers’ unions.” Read more…)

Wake In Fright (restored 1970’s Australian cult classic, Donald Pleasance. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. Metacritic: 87. From Nicolas Rapold’s New York Times article about the restoration of Wake in Fright: “Set in the Australian outback, the 1971 film Wake in Fright follows a vacationing schoolteacher named John Grant who gets waylaid in a rural hell. When the locals aren’t drinking themselves silly and brawling, they drive Ford Fairlanes to hunt down kangaroos and crowd together in gambling halls to bet on flips of a coin. Loud and proud, they regard turning down a beer as the gravest possible insult. Wake in Fright helped herald the rebirth of the nation’s film industry in the 1970s, a revival later called the Australian New Wave.” Read more…)

Talhotblond (thriller, Laua San Giacomo)

Something Better Somewhere Else (romance/drama, Naomi Ashley. Rotten Tomatoes: 44%. Metacritic: 54.)

God Is the Bigger Elvis (biography doc, spirituality, celebrity, Dolores Hart)

The Chicago 8 (historical drama, Gary Cole)

Joan Rivers: Don’t Start With Me (standup comedy)

Stephen King’s Silver Bullet (horror, Gary Busey)

New Blu-Ray

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934, Hitchcock thriller, Peter Lorre. Rotten Tomatoes: 86%. From A.S.’s 1935 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The British cinema, never notable for its command of filmic pace, goes in for a blistering style of story-telling in The Man Who Knew Too Much, the new photoplay at the Mayfair Theatre. Directed with a fascinating staccato violence by Alfred Hitchcock, it is the swiftest screen melodrama this column can recall, with the possible exception of Fog Over Frisco. Normally the work would be important chiefly because it offers Peter Lorre in his first part since his remarkable performance as the insane killer in M. But The Man Who Knew Too Much is distinctly Mr. Hitchcock’s picture. Although the photography and lighting are inferior according to Hollywood standards, the film is an interesting example of technical ingenuity as well as an absorbing melodrama.” Read more…)

Gentleman’s Agreement (1947, social drama, Gregory Peck. Rotten Tomatoes: 83%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1947 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “The shabby cruelties of anti-Semitism which were sharply and effectively revealed within the restriated observation of Laura Z. Hobson’s Gentleman’s Agreement have now been exposed with equal candor and even greater dramatic forcefulness in the motion-picture version of the novel which came to the Mayfair yesterday. In fact, every point about prejudice which Miss Hobson had to make in her book has been made with superior illustration and more graphic demonstration in the film, so that the sweep of her moral indignation is not only widened but intensified thereby.” Read more…)

Taken 2

To Rome With Love

New Foreign

Farewell My Queen (France, historical drama, Lea Seydoux. Rotten Tomatoes: 93%. Metacritic: 67. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “Farewell, My Queen, Benoît Jacquot’s tense, absorbing, pleasurably original look at three days in the life and lies of a doomed monarch, opens with a young woman shaking off sleep and scratching mosquito bites on her arm. It’s a lovely arm, as no less than Marie Antoinette [the well-cast Diane Kruger] proclaims. The young woman is Sidonie Laborde [Léa Seydoux, fittingly recessive], who serves as the queen’s reader. Smitten as well as bitten, Sidonie adores the queen and luxuriates in her good graces. Sidonie also reads plays, novels and even fashion magazines to the queen as Marie Antoinette lazes in her bed at Versailles, pretty as a Fragonard picture while France violently seethes.” Read more…)

Wallander: Episodes 10-13 (Sweden, mystery series, Krister Henriksson)

Silmido (South Korea, espionage thriller, Sing-Kee Ahn)

New American Back Catalog (post-1960)

Lost Horizon (1973, musical, Peter Finch. From Vincent Canby’s 1973 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “This Lost Horizon, with Peter Finch at the head of a not-quite-all-star cast, is a big, stale marshmallow, notable, perhaps, in that most of it was filmed in and around Hollywood at what is reported to have been a rather large budget. Money apparently doesn’t go very far in Hollywood these days, for the film, in addition to packing all of the dramatic punch of a Moral Re-Armament pamphlet, is surprisingly tacky in appearance.” Read more…)

Ladies Room (2000, comedy, John Malkovich)

New TV

Enlightened: Season 1

The Simpsons: Season 15

New Documentaries

King: A Filmed Record…Montgomery to Memphis (history/biography, Martin Luther King, Jr. From Roger Greenspun’s 1970 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “King, an account of the public career of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. compiled and edited from several kinds of documentary footage by Ely Landau, is scheduled to play tonight only at many theaters throughout the country, including more than 50 in the boroughs of New York City. A longer version of the film will eventually be available for purposes of study, but for most moviegoers the theatrical version, which runs for almost three hours, may well seem long enough. In fact it is too long, exactly to the extent that it includes a number of cameo guest appearances by such stars as Paul Newman, Burt Lancaster, James Earl Jones and others who mostly look at the camera and very sincerely recite verse. But the rest of King, except for a few relevant national-affairs stock shots [Vietnam; Lyndon Johnson’s Civil Rights bill], sticks close to its subject, and for its pains achieves a density and shapeliness that is rare in any movie—let alone a documentary committed to the sequence of actual events.” Read more…)

The Other Dream Team (sports, international affairs. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 69. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “A tiny country with a gargantuan love of basketball, Lithuania stars in The Other Dream Team as a place where shooting hoops symbolizes both national unity and individual empowerment. But this crowded, undisciplined documentary by Marius Markevicius is so committed to thoroughness that its most potent thread — the post-cold-war ecstasy of the Lithuanian team’s 1992 Olympic trouncing of its former Soviet oppressors — is almost drained of drama.” Read more…)

God Is the Bigger Elvis (biography, spirituality, celebrity, Dolores Hart, in Top Hits)

Hank’s Recommendations 01/15/13

hank_paperMartin Luther King Day should be every day of the year. Everyone has heard his truly moving “I Have a Dream” speech, underscored by that resonant prescient voice inspiring us to enter a Canaan that, like Moses, he himself would not be able to cross into. Here are some films which, while perhaps not transporting us to that promised land, at least invoke the non-violent struggle he devoted his life to, and that I think he just might have wanted us all to see.

GANDHI

At the very top of this list, and winner of eight Academy Awards, should be the epic yet intimate portrait of King’s own mentor who, like King, was assassinated before he could fully enter the era he, by and large, single handedly invoked and provoked. Luminously portrayed by (if not politically-correctly cast with) Ben Kingsley (who won the Best Actor Oscar), this was one of the first films I took my older daughter to see and which I believe, in the small way any film can, helped make her the person she is today.

NOTHING BUT A MAN

Nothing_But_a_Man_DVDA film doesn’t have to be loud and demonstrative to be affecting. A perfect example is this independent, award-winning 1964 film by Yale’s Michael Roemer. In a small Alabama town, a black laborer wanting to make a life for himself quietly romances a minister’s daughter and gets a job at the local sawmill which, as he soon finds out, is managed by white racists. With a quiet and involving sense of real life, this film depicts the small struggles and decisions that fed the integration that was then sweeping the country.

THE LONG WALK HOME

In this film about gender equality as well as racism, an affluent housewife in Montgomery, Alabama becomes moved, literally and figuratively, by her struggling maid’s decision to join a bus boycott and walk the nine miles to work. The movie is set in the explosive aftermath of Rosa Park’s courageous decision not to move to the back of the bus and features stellar performances by Whoopi Goldberg as the maid, and Sissy Spacek as the housewife who finds her own sensitivities shifting toward a confrontation with both her white community and her narrow-minded husband.

There are many other great and/or entertaining films I’ve especially liked through the years whose treatment of race might not have been the same without Martin Luther King. Here’s my list:

Antwone Fisher (directorial debut of Denzel Washington; script by Fisher himself)

The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman

Black Like Me

Boyz N the Hood

The Brother from Another Planet

The Color Purple

Conrack

The Defiant Ones

Do the Right Thing

Eve’s Bayou

Far from Heaven

Fresh

Fury (’36, Spencer Tracy)

Glory

Greased Lightning

The Great White Hope

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner

Home of the Brave

Imitation of Life (’59 remake)

In the Heat of the Night

Intruder in the Dust

The Jackie Robinson Story

The Jesse Owens Story

The Joe Louis Story

Lean on Me

The Learning Tree

A Lesson Before Dying

Liberty Heights

Mississippi Burning

Native Son (’86)

Pinky

Putney Swope

A Raisin in the Sun

The Rosa Parks Story

Rosewood

Separate But Equal

Sounder

A Time to Kill

To Sir, with Love

To Sleep with Anger

Watermelon Man

When We Were Kings

In addition to matters of race, King’s non-violent philosophy obviously has application to our own post-911 era (e.g. Sorry, Haters and The War Within). Let’s hope our passive involvement in these films leads us to a stronger appreciation of King’s passive resistance.

ADDENDUM FROM THE OTHER HANK (Hank Hoffman):

King_A_Filmed_Record_DVDKING: A FILMED RECORD…MONTGOMERY TO MEMPHIS

Just released on DVD and restored by the Library of Congress, this three-hour 1970 documentary is a chronological account of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s activist life, beginning with his leading the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott. With the exception of occasional interuptions by celebrity actors (James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, Paul Newman, Clarence Williams III) intoning relevant verse (perhaps a “heavy” touch in 1970, rather pretentious now), the film consists of vintage footage. There is no omniscient narration. It is a riveting portrait, not only of a courageous man with a stirring moral vision but also of a time of wrenching upheaval.

FREEDOM RIDERS

Made for PBS in 2011 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Freedom Rides that desegregated interstate travel in the South, this Stanley Nelson documentary is a tribute to the incredible heroism of the (mostly) young activists of SNCC and CORE.

Reminder: Film screening of “State of the Union” Monday, Jan. 14, at 7 PM

State_of_the_Union_DVDThe “What Would You Do: Ethical Dilemmas in Great Films” film series is a collaborative effort of Temple Beth Sholom and Best Video. Best Video owner Hank Paper and Temple Beth Sholom Rabbi Benjamin Scolnic will take turns introducing films and leading the post-film discussions.

On Monday, Jan. 14, at 7 PM, we present “State of the Union.” The film will be introduced and the discussion led by Hank Paper.

The admission cost per film is $5 and reservations are ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL. Each of the two previous screenings have been sold out. At the time of this writing on Sunday, there are still a few seats available.

Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn shine in this pertinent classic film about marriage, politics, and the pursuit of the American Dream. When idealistic businessman Grant Matthews (Tracy) is chosen to run for the Presidency, he is caught between the compromising ambition of a ruthless, string-pulling newspaper owner and the integrity of his devoted wife (Hepburn). Masterly directed by Frank Capra, it also features Angela Lansbury, Van Johnson, and Adolphe Menjou.

The February film will be “Gone Baby Gone.” It will show on Monday, Feb. 14.