Music: The Bluegrass Characters play quarterly show Tues., July 30, at 7:30 PM

The Bluegrass Characters will play Best Video Performance Space on Tuesday, July. 30. The show starts at 7:30 PM and the cover is a sliding scale of $5-10 (pay what you can in that range).

Formerly led by the great Stacy Phillips—who tragically passed away last year—The Bluegrass Characters are a local bluegrass supergroup who play the great straight-ahead, hard-driving bluegrass from the 50s and 60s.

The group features a rotating cast of acoustic roots music virtuosos. This month’s line-up features Phil Zimmerman (mandolin), Lukas Schwartz (fiddle), Pete Kelly (bass), Joe “Pepe” Lemeris (banjo) and Andy Bromage (guitar). Three chords and the truth, sung from the heart and through the nose.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Music: GuitarTownCT presents The Little Roy & Lizzy Show Sat., July 27, at 7:30 PM

GuitarTownCT Concert Productions presents The Little Roy & Lizzy show live at Best Video Performance Space on Saturday, July 27. The show starts at 7:30 PM and tickets are $25 in advance through

From Georgia, Little Roy & Lizzy are one of the most entertaining acts in bluegrass today. Front man Little Roy Lewis, 77, is a banjo master, comedian and story teller. Lizzy Long, virtuoso on fiddle, banjo and guitar, has a fantastic voice, and tries to keep Little Roy’s antics in check. Festival favorites, they play traditional bluegrass, country and gospel, with comedy thrown in everywhere.

While starting out on the piano, Elizabeth Long—or Lizzy as her friends and fans know her—soon took up the fiddle, guitar, autoharp, bass, banjo, and mandolin, and has become an accomplished musician, alternating between these instruments as part of her entertainment repertoire. Continuing her quest for success, Lizzy has paired up with Little Roy Lewis from the legendary Lewis Family. Lizzy finds that singing helps to express her thoughts and emotions—whether happy, sad, disappointed or angry. Her extraordinary voice shimmers with strains of America’s musical roots. Lizzy has been nominated for three Dove Awards and has won several fiddle and talent contests. Little Roy summed it up the best, “pull a plank off the wall and she’ll play it!”

Little Roy is awfully hard to overlook. He makes sure that no one in the audience gets bored at any time. Little Roy has won awards as Entertainer as well as for his banjo playing. Little Roy’s favorite banjo players are Don Reno and Earl Scruggs. USA Today called Little Roy “a banjo master, truly a picker’s picker.” Little Roy can also be found playing the guitar and autoharp. In fact, the song ‘Good Time Get-Together’ was written to highlight his instrumental skills. Little Roy is multi-talented – he sings, plays many instruments, tells stories, and acts.

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Music: Sambeleza serves up sensuous Brazilian music Fri., July 26

Sambeleza plays Best Video Performance Space on Friday, July 26. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is $10. The group will feature Jeff Fuller (bass), Joe Carter (guitar), and Isabella Mendes (vocals, piano).

Sambeleza performs a wide variety of Brazilian songs, both old and new, with a jazz twist. Featured composers include Tom Jobim and Ary Barroso, as well as younger composers like Djavan, Debora Gurgel and Arlindo Cruz. A few originals by group members are added to the mix.

Their first CD, “Sambeleza Live,” was released in the spring of 2015. It was recorded live at Summer Solstice Samba in June, 2014 at Voices Cafe of the Unitarian Church in Westport in association with WPKN-FM. Along with Sambeleza members Isabella Mendes, Jeff Fuller and Joe Carter on that date were special guests Ali Ryerson (flute), Adriano Santos (drums) and Ze Mauricio (percussion).

Brasil (spelled with an “s” in Portuguese) is well known for its rich heritage—a blend of indigenous, African and European cultures—from which the music has risen with fascinating rhythms, soaring melodies and colorful harmonies. The musicians of Sambeleza are outstanding U. S. and Brazilian interpreters of the great songs of the bossa nova and samba traditions, as well as outstanding jazz artists in their own right. Sambeleza derives its name from two words: samba, the national dance of Brasil, and beleza, Portuguese for “beauty.”

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Music: Thabisa performs Afro-soul Thurs., July 25, at Best Video

Thabisa plays Best Video Performance Space on Thursday, July 25. The show starts at 8 PM. The cover is a sliding scale from $10-15 but $5 will also allow you to enjoy the show.

A night of reflection and openness to new beginnings as Thabisa carves and weaves her way through these grounds of unfamiliar territory. This singer songwriter from South Africa and now New Haven’s songbird will share her talents and journey through music and storytelling. Accompanied by the Hamden’s talented musicians Myke Ross (guitar) and Sam Oliver (percussion/drums) she will bring in songs unsung and a few of your favourites from both her “Eyodidi” and “The Journey” albums.

Thabisa’s story begins in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Born and raised by her grandparents in KwaZakhele township, she could always be found singing and dancing outside her home. Neighbors gave her the name “Little Brenda” for the legendary South African pop star Brenda Fassie.

In 2012 she entered the national singing competition, Idols South Africa, and finished in the Top 18. The following year, she signed on with the independent record label Tammy Music and produced two albums, Eyodidi (2015) and The Journey (2013).

Thabisa received a nomination for Best Video at the South African Traditional Music Awards (SATMA) for the song “Vula” off her first album, The Journey. Musically, she finds inspiration from the likes of Miriam Makeba and Billy Holiday, and has shared a stage with living legends Caiphus Simenya, Bebe and Cece Winans, Thandiswa Mazwai and Freshly Ground.

Thabisa currently lives with her family in the United States. “What makes my music worthwhile, is the opportunities it opens for me to work with children and inspire them to dream big” she explained. THABISA volunteers with children using music, cultural exchange, and story-telling.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

New releases 7/16/19

Top Hits
Shazam! (superhero action, Zachary Levi. Rotten Tomatoes: 91%. Metacritic: 70. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “Ever since Christopher Nolan took Batman to their mutually productive dark place, the DC cinematic super-universe has been as somber as a grave. There have been exceptions, shimmers of light amid the doom. Outside the animated realm, though, the stories and mood have been downbeat… Given this, the bright, popping red of the superhero costume in ‘Shazam!’ is an early warning sign, as obvious as a matador’s cape, that the dreary and crepuscular have given way to something less self-serious and end-of-the-world grim. It’s a nice change of pace for a big-screen mega-comic, if not a revolutionary shift.” Read more…)

Relaxer (comedy/fantasy, Joshua Burge. Rotten Tomatoes: 69%. Metacritic: 82. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “Sad and strange and defiantly gross, ‘Relaxer’ is a surreal survival tale swirling with childhood trauma and Y2K paranoia. Few directors have as steely a grip on mental damage as [director Joel] Potrykus, and [actor Joshua] Burge, a regular collaborator, is his perfectly pained muse. Some may find this movie unbearable; yet there’s a place for pictures that push us to the limits of forbearance. Sometimes, even the loathsome have stories worth telling.” Read more…)

Teen Spirit (pop music dreams, Elle Fanning. Rotten Tomatoes: 72%. Metacritic: 57. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ Times review: “‘Teen Spirit,’ Max Minghella’s sweet and touching directing debut, is both proudly clichéd and refreshingly different. The rhythmic beats of his rise-to-fame story, about a teenage singing hopeful who enters a televised competition, are comfortingly familiar. Yet the poignant, almost despondent mood created by his visual choices and the raw vulnerability of his star, Elle Fanning, transform the pop energy of the soundtrack into a yearning cry to be heard.” Read more…)

Breakthrough (faith drama, Chrissy Metz. Rotten Tomatoes: 59%. Metacritic: 46. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Bilge Ebiri’s Times review: “In January 2015, 14-year-old John Smith fell through the frozen surface of a lake in St. Charles, Mo., and remained submerged for 15 minutes. He had no pulse when emergency workers pulled him from the freezing water, or for nearly 45 minutes after; it was reportedly only after audible prayers by his mother, Joyce, that his heart finally started up again. And over the next several days, as his community vigorously prayed for him, the young man made a full, seemingly impossible recovery. Roxann Dawson’s faith-based film, ‘Breakthrough,’ tells the story of John’s miraculous ordeal with an unassuming simplicity, focusing on the harrowing details of the case without an overreliance on proselytization.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray

New Foreign
Dogman (Italy, drama, Marcello Fonte. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 71. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “The worlds that the director Matteo Garrone creates onscreen sometimes seem as far out and darkly mysterious as an alternate universe. Best known for ‘Gomorrah,’ a blistering story about a people under siege by the Neapolitan mafia, Garrone looks at an Italy that is dramatically at odds with its touristic image, its charming hill towns and bourgeois niceties… ‘Dogman,’ Garrone’s latest, again takes on Italy and its enduring discontents, this time in a coastal town that appears as if it hasn’t fully recovered — but from what: war, the economy, organized crime, the government? That question lingers each time the camera holds on the story’s principal setting, a depopulated stretch of beach flanked by squat anonymous buildings, many seemingly derelict. In the sandy center are the remains of what looks like an abandoned amusement park, including a swing set and a ride ornamented with a dragon, a proud emblem of better or maybe just busier days.” Read more…)

The Baker’s Wife (France, 1938, drama/comedy, Raimu. Rotten Tomatoes: 100%. From Frank S. Nugent’s 1940 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “On top of ‘Harvest,’ which reverently told how the seed was sowed and the grain reaped, the French now have added an impious chapter about the flour, its baking and ‘The Baker’s Wife.’ A perfectly scandalous story it is, too; the kind of story Frenchmen were born to tell—the French being, as our old school books used to explain, “a gay people, fond of dancing and light wines.” Certainly no other breed could have told it so cutely, with such disarming good humor, with such tolerance and wit.” Read more…)

Ash Is Purest White (China, crime drama, Zhao Tao. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 785. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From A.O. Scott’s Times review: “Packets of money change hands, and eventually a gun is fired, but ‘Ash Is Purest White,’ Jia Zhangke’s enthralling new feature, isn’t really a crime drama. The aura of romantic, outlaw chic that hovers around Bin and Qiao soon dissipates, replaced by the clearer, grimmer air of reality. Jia, an essential figure in China’s ‘sixth generation’ of filmmakers and one the most inventive and engaged directors of the 21st century, has long concerned himself with the effect of enormous social and economic forces on the intimate experiences of individuals.” Read more…)

T-34 (Russia, war drama, Alexander Petrov)

New Television
Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood: Would You Be Mine Collection (30 Classic Episodes from 1979-2000)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
Female On the Beach (1955, crime/drama, Joan Crawford. From Bosley Crowther’s 1955 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A rich widow moves into a beach house at the beginning of ‘Female on the Beach,’ the new Universal melodrama that came to the Palace yesterday. And before this ungracious lady knows it, she is falling heedlessly in love with the very neighbor who had been loved by her predecessor, also a rich widow, now deceased.This is the situation into which Joan Crawford is propelled in this slow and old-fashioned mystery thriller, which accompanies the vaudeville bill.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Grace Quigley (1985, comedy, Katharine Hepburn, Nick Nolte. From Vincent Canby’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “A LOT of talented people have labored long and fruitlessly to make something presentable of ‘Grace Quigley,’ a movie you might not want to take home to meet the folks, not because it’s so rude and unpredictable, which it unhappily isn’t, but because it’s so thoroughly muddled and unintentionally sad.” Read more…)

Eye of the Devil (1966, suspense, Sharon Tate)
Don’t Make Waves (1967, comedy, Sharon Tate)

Music: Dr. Caterwaul tangos to tunes of Astor Piazzolla Wed., July 24

Eclectic world music/folk band Dr. Caterwaul’s Cadre of Clairvoyant Claptraps play the music of tango master Astor Piazzolla at Best Video Performance Space on Wednesday, July 24. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is a sliding scale of $5-10 (pay what you can in that range).

With its seamless blend of tango, jazz, and classical music, composer Astor Piazzolla’s nuevo tango took over the world like tango itself had two generations before. Piazzolla’s compositional voice reverberates today through film scores, music for television, and pretty much any music that’s evocatively badass.

Dr. Caterwaul members have been talking about doing an evening of Astor Piazzolla’s music pretty much since they’ve been together as a band. When you hear Piazzolla’s music, you’ll know why.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Comedy: Reel Life Stand-Up Comedy show, hosted by Kendra Dawsey, returns Sat., July 20, 8 PM

Best Video Film & Cultural Center presents “Reel Life,” a monthly stand-up comedy show, on Saturday, July 20, at 8 PM. Reel Life is hosted by Kendra Dawsey, a comic who also hosts a weekly open mic at Lyric Hall in Westville and has also performed at Best Video’s Second Wednesday Open Mic among other venues throughout New England. Cover is $10.

Also on the bill for July 20 are comics Mal Cruz, Dan Brown, Ashlynn Cradic, Matt Woodland, and Dan Rice. Note: Comic routines may feature explicit material and language.

Kendra Dawsey is an up and coming stand-up comic who has performed in clubs and showcases in NYC and all over New England, including Stonewall Inn, Comix @ Mohegan Sun, and ImprovBoston. She was also a featured comic on the Sirius XM radio program Paid or Pain. Kendra garners humor from her identity and experiences by blending anecdote with higher concepts. Never too proud to laugh at herself, Kendra endears audiences by inviting them to laugh with her.

Dan Rice is an editor and contributor at the punk rock satire site He hasn’t seen Crazy Rich Asians yet, so please don’t spoil it for him. Rumored to be Stevie Nick’s long lost sister, Ashlynn Cradic is a Massachusetts transplant from Mississippi. Her humor is a bit of the goofy with a flare of deadpan all mixed together highlighting the life of a young trans-woman in modern day America.

Dan Brown is an animator, musician, standup comedian, and bigfoot enthusiast. He is co-creator of KR47 – Mallory Cruz is an autistic comedian based in NYC. She is currently recovering from a fresh concussion. It’s her 5th one. Matt Woodland grew up in Worthington Ma, a bustling little town in the foothills of the Berkshire Mountains. Matt has been performing stand up comedy over the past few years, operating predominantly out of the Western Ma area. He has also put on several shows in the Northampton area, including long standing monthly shows at Luthier’s Co-op & Iconica Social Club. Matt combines improvisation, crowd work and theatrics to create some kind of an experience you won’t want to miss!

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Music: Last Fair Deal offers American roots music Fri., July 19

Last Fair Deal play Best Video Performance Space on Friday, July 19. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is a sliding scale of $5-10 (pay what you can in that range).

Last Fair Deal continues to redraw the map of American roots music with fluid energy and creativity. Performing as a trio, guitarist Paul Howard, fiddler Tom Hagymasi and banjo/mandolinist Phil Zimmerman fan the flame that has kept this band relevant since the 70’s. They’re enjoyment of performing together is palpable and captivating!

Their live performances, with stellar vocals and unique acoustic synergy draw from an eclectic repertoire of old-time string-band, bluegrass, swing, and popular music. The band’s shows feature originals from their current and previous three albums and they also put their own spin on tunes by John Hartford, Gillian Welch, Dan Hicks, Lennon/McCartney, John Hiatt, The Band and Bob Dylan.

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

Music: Power pop from Lucy’s Neighbor Thurs., July 18

Lucy’s Neighbor plays Best Video Performance Space Thursday, July 18. The show starts at 8 PM and the cover is $5.

Lucy’s Neighbor—named after the Mrs. Matilda Trumbull character in the “I Love Lucy” Sitcom—is an original indie rock/power pop band from New Haven. The members are Derek Di Fronzo (vocals); Dave Esposito (guitar); Tom Quagliano (drums) and Ed Flynn (bass). They will be playing songs from their two self-released CDs, the self-titled “Lucy’s Neighbor” (2011) and “Over Easy” (2018).

Click here for the complete list of upcoming events.

New releases 7/9/19

Top Hits
Pet Sematary (Stephen King horror remake, Jason Clarke. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 57. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “”[Stephen] King’s novel was adapted for the screen in 1989. Directed by Mary Lambert, that ‘Pet Sematary’ was a squirrelly, wild-eyed movie. This version is more Hollywood smooth. It’s very well-acted by Jason Clarke, Amy Seimetz, John Lithgow and especially Jeté Laurence as young Ellie. Directors Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer, showing puzzling distrust of their strong source material, overload the movie with arbitrary jump scares. And they replace King’s despairing, tragic denouement with something altogether more glib.” Read more…)

Saint Judy (legal drama, Michelle Monaghan. Rotten Tomatoes: 58%. Metacritic: 51. From Glenn Kenny’s New York Times review: “Judy Wood is a real-life lawyer who — after moving to California and getting a job with an immigration law firm — discovered a passion that, by this film’s telling, led her to a case that changed asylum policies in the United States. Directed by Sean Hanish from a script by Dmitry Portnoy, ‘Saint Judy’ begins by underscoring the title character’s resourcefulness, then playing up her pluckiness and single-mom status.” Read more…)

Mia and the White Lion (family drama, Daniah De Villiers. Rotten Tomatoes: 88%. Metacritic: 52. From Gary Goldstein’s Los Angeles Times review: “There are several uniquely impressive elements to the adventure drama ‘Mia and the White Lion,’ but they’re undermined by a choppy, at times contrived and implausible script by Prune de Maistre [wife of director Gilles de Maistre] and William Davies.” Read more…)

Little (comedy, Regina Hall. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 49. From A.O. Scott’s New York Times review: “‘Little’ is about what happens when an adult woman [Regina Hall] is punished for her bullying, vainglorious ways by turning into her 13-year-old self [Marsai Martin]. As the premise for a comedy, this kind of body switch is just about foolproof. ‘Big,’ ’13 Going on 30,’ the several variations on the ‘Freaky Friday’ theme — it’s almost always fun to watch grown-up souls inhabiting immature physiques, and vice versa. And so it is here, even if this go-round leaves a lot of potential hilarity on the table.” Read more…)

The Kid (western, Ethan Hawke. Rotten Tomatoes: 46%. Metacritic: 51. From Jeannette Catsoulis’ New York Times review: “Starting as violently as it plans to continue, Vincent D’Onofrio’s ‘The Kid’ drops us into a savage altercation as Rio [Jake Schur], 13, kills his abusive father before slicing the face of his scummy uncle, Grant [Chris Pratt]. Primed by the boy’s affectless narration (here, when characters aren’t practicing brutality, they’re talking about it), we intuit that what will follow for Rio and his older sister, Sara [Leila George], is unlikely to be pretty. Set in the American Southwest in 1879, ‘The Kid’ feels less like an actual movie than a table-napkin idea for one.” Read more…)

New Blu-Ray
High Life (sci-fi from French director Claire Denis, Robert Pattinson. Rotten Tomatoes: 82%. Metacritic: 77. From Manohla Dargis’ New York Times review: “As is often the case in [director Claire] Denis’s movies, ‘High Life’ vibrates with low-key erotic energy that can feel exciting, a little dangerous. [She wrote it with Jean-Pol Fargeau.] One reason is the obvious seductive appeal of performers like [Robert] Pattinson, [Juliet] Binoche and [Andre] Benjamin, whose faces and bodies are alternately flooded with flattering light or eye-straining washes of red and blue. But Denis doesn’t just prettify her actors: She lingers on their forms, their skin, stressing texture that becomes tactile.” Read more…)

Pet Sematary

New Foreign
3 Faces (Iran, drama, Behnaz Jafari. Rotten Tomatoes: 98%. Metacritic: 78. A New York Times Critic’s Pick. From Manohla Dargis’ Times review: “A road movie that opens into a political allegory, ‘3 Faces’ is filled with unexpected turns. It is the latest from the Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi, a master of narrative diversion, who again has taken the twinned roles of director and driver, as he did in the documentary “Taxi” (2015). Here, playing himself, or a version of the filmmaker Jafar Panahi, he spends a large part of the movie behind the wheel of an S.U.V., motoring through the Iranian countryside to help an actress find a missing, possibly dead woman. They succeed but also find other women, including one who’s a ghost in a haunted world.” Read more…)

New British
Dead of Night (1945, horror anthology, Michael Redgrave. Rotten Tomatoes: 97%. From Bosley Crowther’s 1946 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Such folks as like to drag their friends into the parlor, turn out the lights and swap tales of the weird and supernatural will certainly enjoy the new film at the Winter Garden, the British-made ‘Dead of Night.’ For this is precisely a package of those curious and uncanny yarns designed to raise secret goose-pimples and cause the mind to make a fast check on itself. And although the stories here related are probably familiar to all who are devotees of such mysticisms, they are tightly and graphically told.” Read more…)

New Classic DVDs (pre-1960)
The General (1926, silent film comedy classic, Buster Keaton. Rotten Tomatoes: 92%. From a 1971 Vincent Canby New York Times review on the occasion of a screening of The General” on public television [requires log-in]: “The General” really is a masterpiece, pure though by no means simple. If you can see only one movie this week [to paraphrase a rather bossy friend], at home or in a theater, then there is no doubt that it should be ‘The General,’ which is a farce, a history, a romance and, principally, a triumph of one man’s movie art, which, in turn, enriches the possibilities of all movies.” Read more…)

The Rising of the Moon (1957, Irish comedy/drama vignettes dir. by John Ford, Tyrone Power. From Bosley Crowther’s 1957 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “With the reticence of a true Hibernian, John Ford has publicly proclaimed he considers his current picture, ‘The Rising of the Moon,’ the best thing he has ever done. This is, indeed, a modest reckoning, in the light of Mr. Ford’s previous films—such classics as ‘Stagecoach,’ ‘The Informer,’ ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ and ‘The Long Voyage Home’ However, it may be agreed with him that “The Rising of the Moon,” which came yesterday to the Fifty-fifth Street Playhouse, is a little picture with lively humor and exceptional charm.” Read more…)

New American Back Catalog DVDs (post-1960)
Code of Silence (1985, action, Chuck Norris. Rotten Tomatoes: 63%. From Janet Maslin’s 1985 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Chuck Norris goes upscale in ‘Code of Silence,’ as a big-city police inspector who stalks through art galleries and public libraries to catch his prey. Mr. Norris hasn’t abandoned his usual fans; this film has a body count as high as that of ‘Missing in Action,’ and a climactic sequence in which Mr. Norris, as a one-man army, is helped by a heavily armed miniature tank. But ‘Code of Silence,’ which opens today at the UA Twin and other theaters, is Mr. Norris’s bid for a wider audience, and it succeeds to a considerable degree.” Read more…)

The Presidio (1988, action thriller, Sean Connery. Rotten Tomatoes: 53%. From Janet Maslin’s 1988 New York Times review [requires log-in]: “Sean Connery is a fine actor under any circumstances, but he doesn’t do much acting in ‘The Presidio,’ which opens today at Loews 84th Street and other theaters. What he does is to recite his lines while staring over Mark Harmon’s shoulder. For his part, Mr. Harmon does much the same thing, staring past Mr. Connery to deliver the other half of the leading men’s back-and-forth banter in a style that the director Peter Hyams obviously intends as gutsy and crisp.” Read more…)

New Documentaries
Eternity Has No Doors of Escape: Encounters with Outsider Art (art history, art brut, outside art)

New Gay & Lesbian DVDs
Tell It to the Bees (romance/drama, Anna Paquin. Rotten Tomatoes: 57%. Metacritic: 53.)