Sing (2016)

“Sing” is a lot like many of the other movies from Illumination Studios. It’s basically a moving greeting card. It’s cute for a few minutes, and then you’ll eventually find yourself tucking it away and looking for something more stimulating. As per most of the films from Illumination, “Sing” is just a middle of the road film that barely gets by because of the neat animation. “Sing” is cute. And that’s about it. It’s cute. And it packs a humongous soundtrack filled with pop songs both old and new that are meant to basically distract from the fact that it’s a very barebones animated movie with a paper thin narrative, that does little to convey to its audience something more meaningful.

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Buena Vista Social Club (1999): The Criterion Collection [Blu-Ray]

Wim Wenders’ ode to the music of Cuba and the Buena Vista Social Club is a brilliant and poetic documentary that depicts the art of music as something that’s soothing to the soul and can ease even the most tumultuous situations. Wenders’ documentary is very much about music with a lot of performances, but it’s also a thoughtful and deliberately paced meditation on the meaning of music. It defines something within the subjects we meet in “Buena Vista Social Club.” And even in spite of the economic turmoil, it’s kept people within the society of Cuba going forward and doing their best to show their love for the art form.

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Streets of Fire (1984): Collector’s Edition [Blu-Ray]

After years of just being available on DVD and Blu-Ray in other countries and regions, Shout Factory comes to the rescue to deliver fans a deluxe edition of one of the most underrated action films ever made. Something of a spiritual sequel to Walter Hill’s “The Warriors,” director Hill sets his latest gang land picture in an undisclosed period between the 20’s and 40’s in what is apparently New York. Sadly, Hill intended the film to be the first of a trilogy, but while we never got that wish, “Streets of Fire” still manages to be a single adventure rich in character and pulp appeal. Starring the incredible beautiful Diane Lane, and the fantastic Michael Pare, “Streets of Fire” is a rock and roll musical, romance, gangster, action, adventure. It has everything for mostly everyone and it gets better with every viewing.

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Iridescence (2017)

Director Max Beauchamp’s “Iridescence” is an excellent short film and one that we desperately need these days. Conveyed through motion, body language, and dance, “Iridescence” is the story of one family torn apart and destroyed by ignorance and misunderstanding. Relying on ace editing by Duy N. Bui and fantastic choreography, director Beauchamp tells the story of the tragic death of a wife at the hands of her husband one fateful night. Years later their son grows up confused about his own sexuality and is struggling to hide his affair with another man from his violent father.

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Blackhearts (2017)

As Norway prepares for one of its epic black metal festivals, 3 bands prepare to go and play their set there for the first time.  The film follows closely Hector from Columbia (leader of the band Luciferian), Sina from the Middle East where playing black metal is a jailable offense, and Kaiadas and his band mates (band Naer Mataron) through their preparation for the festival and what pushes them to play this type of music.  The film also explores the history of black metal in Norway, including a visit to the Rockheim museum in Trondheim, interviews and moments with members of bands such as Keep of Kalessin, Mayhem, and a few others.  Through seeing the lives of these musicians, what they believe in, and what they want to accomplish, the viewer can get a good idea of what black metal is all about and also learn about its history.

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Country: Portraits of an American Sound (2015)

This documentary made in 2015 and released in early 2017 explores how the image of country singer is developed through photography and has been since the very start of the music genre.  Through interviews with photographers, artists, singers, and musicians, the history of country music is explored and the emphasis on how image can help make or break an artist’s popularity are explained as well as the process behind some memorable photographs done by various photographers, some specializing in country portraits and other specialized in portraits.

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Joe’s Violin (2016)

ACADEMY AWARD NOMINEE – Kahane Cooperman’s short documentary “Joe’s Violin” is a touching, emotional, and pretty extraordinary portrait of the value of objects, and how music can touch us and bind us together as human beings. Centered on Holocaust survivor Joe Feingold, director Cooperman explores how Joe spent most of his young life struggling to survive in concentration camps. Despite all logic indicating that he bring along bare necessities like food or clothing, Joe kept his beloved violin with him throughout his life. A now 91 year old Joe donates his violin to a Bronx music school, and he reflects on his life as young Brianna Perez prepares to perform with it.

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