Philly is a lot of things, but not many people expect this East Coast city to have a taste of the Wild West. But yet, the Netflix film ‘Concrete Cowboy‘ starring Idris Elba shows just that. If you head to North Philadelphia, specifically Fletcher Street, don’t be surprised if you see horses trotting up and down the roads and the wafting smells of manure from the stables where many of these urban cowboys and cowgirls spend their time. Those horsemen, known as the Fletcher Street Riders, are exactly what drew writer/director Ricky Staub in. Staub lives in North Philly and spent time developing his production company, Neighborhood Film Company, as a unique organization that offers paid apprenticeships and career development to adults returning home from incarceration. It’s through this program that Staub met cowboy Eric Miller, and the script for “Concrete Cowboy” began to form. “Concrete Cowboy” follows the story of Cole (“Stranger Things” actor Caleb McLaughlin), who is sent to live with his father Harp (Elba) for the summer following an expulsion from his school in Detroit. It’s in Philly that Cole is introduced to the city’s cowboys and girls and his life begins to change — but not without some growing pains. Having an all-star cast of not only actors, but the Fletcher Street Riders themselves, Staub’s latest film is the epitome of a love letter to Philly, and more specifically to the concrete cowboys and girls who make this untold story so rich with feeling and culture.
‘Mare of Easttown’
So technically this hit HBO show takes place in Delco, but, it became so huge that Philly takes pride in knowing exactly what “youse” are talking about in almost every episode. In Brad Ingelsby’s “Mare of Easttown,” the story is centered around Mare, the only detective in the fictional Easttown with not so fictional aspects that locals will recognize immediately. After a young girl goes missing and one is found dead a year after an eerily similar circumstance with another local woman, Mare is thrown into a tangled web of secrets and lies from her neighbors and family that she didn’t quite sign up for. Ingelsby grew up in the area, and that’s apparent in “Easttown” — from the genuine Delco accent to the blue-collar feel. Mare is not just the title character, but her family and neighborhood as a whole. That’s a tune that Ingelsby has been singing in almost all of his work such as 2018’s “American Woman,” but this series hits a bit differently.
If Philly needed a voice, Tariq Trotter is here to be one. As the lead MC and co-founder of The Roots (the Philadelphia hip-hop band created with Questlove in the late ’80s), a native to the city, an actor and a lover of the art of storytelling, the artist also known as Black Thought has a way to project his voice and story in the city and beyond through words and music. In “7 Years,” Trotter’s Words + Music with Audible that came out in July, the prolific rapper examines his life and career in seven-year increments. The online audiobook and podcast service has produced the Words + Music concept as an Audible Original with other artists on their platform (essentially it’s an audio memoir with a musical score and, for “7 Years,” Trotter helped to create both), but for Trotter, this specific work examines his life growing up in Philadelphia, his career and beyond — all in his own words and perspectives. Trotter first heard of the platform and what they could offer with this specific format through legendary producer T-Bone Burnett, and he was immediately interested given his background in expressing emotions and relaying feelings through art and storytelling. It’s that walk down memory lane that evoked much more than just memories, it also provided the artist with some truth, and ultimately, a voice for others to hear.
‘Rocky IV: The Director’s Cut’
When ‘Rocky’ first premiered, the story of the underdog athlete from Philly making it all the way to the top in the world of global boxing was met with huge acclaim. The premiere event of “Rocky IV: Rocky V. Drago: The Ultimate Director’s Cut” with Sylvester Stallone emanated from the Philadelphia Film Center and was broadcasted via Fathom events in November. After a Q&A with Turner Classic Movie’s host, Ben Mankiewicz, the screening took place with a slew of audience members, including veterans to honor Veterans Day. The fourth film in the initial franchise follows Rocky Balboa in his training and journey to fight Drago (Dolph Lundgren) who killed his friend Apollo Creed in a title fight at the beginning of the film. With never-before-seen footage, the fight scenes are more intense, the music is more powerful and the drama is heightened.