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Thursday
Sep112014

BANKS || Goddess

Banks
Goddess
Label: Harvest Records
Released on: September 9th, 2014
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

This album is the reason why I review music.  When it comes down to it, being a music journalist is about waiting for that special moment to happen where I'm rendered speechless because of a record.  I can critique music endlessly until I fall asleep, but albums like Banks' Goddess provide a struggle for me and that's when this gets fun.  Banks will inevitably be compared to a list of artists that will stretch to War and Peace lengths, but when it comes down to it...there's no one like Banks.  She may sound like anybody you can name drop, but she is the beginning of something totally fresh and new.  In a perfect world, Goddess would kickstart a new golden age for pop music.

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Tuesday
Sep092014

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage
Author/Publisher: Haruki Murakami / Knopf
Release date: August 12th, 2014
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz

Tsukuru is colorless. He has a tight-knit group of friends that define him this way, their names all being Japanese for a different color, and his meaning ‘Gray’ and ‘Builder,’ which he is. Tsukuru builds train stations, and gets an almost aspergers-esque glee from doing so.

When Tsukuru comes back to visit his hometown, his group of friends quite vocally cast him aside and ask him never to contact them again, which he accepts without question. For years afterwards, Tsukuru lives in Tokyo, never visiting home, and never asking why he was excommunicated, living a very Murikami-esque lonely existence, only without the Japanese joy-in-simplicity attitude that most Murikami characters are imbued with. Tsukuru is in a dark place, a lonely place, and he plans to do nothing about it. That is, until a new girlfriend forces him to confront his childhood friends and get some closure on the situation, to free Tsukuru from his constant misanthropy and fear (not to mention, erectile dysfunction).

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Tuesday
Sep092014

Life Itself

Life Itself
Directed by: Steve James
Release Date: July 4th, 2014/Streaming now on Amazon.com 
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

One of my favorite pastimes growing up was staying up late on Sunday nights to watch Siskel & Ebert on the St. Louis affiliate. Not only was it a great way to end the week in anticipation of going back to school on Monday, but it fostered my interest in movies as an art form. The dynamic duo broadened my horizons by introducing me to films I couldn’t find at my small town multiplex and by recommending classics to rent at the video store. Without Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, I would not be doing what I am right now.

When Ebert passed away in April of last year, after more than a decade battling thyroid cancer, he joined his reviewing partner at the Great Movie Palace in the Sky. The world mourned the death of the most popular and important film critic in the history of movies. There has never been anyone quite like him in his field and there probably won’t be anyone else like him to come. He was the rockstar of movie reviewers. He was the voice of the plebs in a profession mostly made up of pretentious snobs and humorless know-it-alls out of touch with the general moviegoing public.

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Tuesday
Sep092014

Locke

Locke
Directed by: Steven Knight
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: August 12th, 2014
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

In this age of bloated CGI spectacles, pointless remakes/reboots/reimaginings and two-hour dick jokes, innovation in cinema is very far and very few between. It seems that Hollywood would rather run out of ideas than make smart and challenging films. It’s quite an embarrassment.

On the other hand, you have films like the British import, Locke. Written and directed by Oscar nominee Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises), this captivating film experiment is the antithesis of everything that is wrong with the current state of Hollywood. Shot over a few weeks on a miniscule budget and set entirely in a car in real time, it tells the story of engineer and family man Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy, The Dark Knight Rises) going for one of the most important drives of his life.

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Sunday
Sep072014

Now I'm Nothing @ Mojoe's

Now I'm Nothing
Where: Mojoe's
When: September 6th, 2014
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Never in a million years would I have thought I could have so much fun seeing bands performing tribute sets.  Sure, Scott Lucas can get away with doing his Halloween “performing as…” sets every year and those are fun and entertaining, but I’ve always been skeptical of tribute bands outside of that.  Enter Now I’m Nothing.  I’ve seen Nine Inch Nails live countless times at this point – I’ve actually lost an accurate count.  I even told my friend who invited me to this show before they took the stage that I was setting the bar really high for this.  Little did I know that this band, who normally perform their own material as Worm (The World Organization of the Righteous Movement), would drastically exceed my expectations and actually put on a show that any fans of Nine Inch Nails should witness.

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Saturday
Sep062014

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears

The Strange Color of Your Body's Tears
Directed by: Hélène Cattet, Bruno Forzani
Released on: August 29th, 2014 [USA/LIMITED]
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Dan Kristensen (Klaus Tange) has just returned to Brussels from a business trip abroad. After leaving several messages for his wife, Edwige (Ursula Bedena), without receiving response, Dan comes home to find the door is chained from the inside. When Edwige still does not answer Dan through the ajar door, Dan breaks the chain and enters his home.

Edwige is missing. Rather than immediately call the cops, Dan goes on a drinking binge and then rings up his neighbors to see if they have seen his wife. One of his neighbors lets him into her home. A strange woman whose face remains shadowed in darkness, Dora (Birgin Yew), relays a ghastly story about the day her husband went missing in the ceiling after he tied her up and sedated her. (She wakes up later to help him, somehow eschewing or forgetting or forgiving her husband's horrific behavior.)

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Tuesday
Aug262014

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For
Directed by: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller
Experienced at: Hollywood Palms Cinema
Released on: August 22nd, 2014
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Upon entering the gorgeous and extremely accommodating Hollywood Palms theater in Naperville, I was first greeted by the presence of a lavish cherry-red 1956 Ford Thunderbird just like the one used in Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.  It set the tone for an undeniably prestigious and unforgettable evening, packed with a viewing of the new Sin City film as well as a face to face meeting with Rosario Dawson, Patricia Vonne, and Crystal McCahill – aka three of the Old Town girls in Sin City.  Hollywood Palms always bring the stars to you through meet & greets and this night was among the best they’ve put together.  As long as I’d waited in my career for a chance to meet Ms. Dawson (to say I’m a huge fan is an understatement), the encounter was on par with how spectacular the film turned out to be.

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Monday
Aug182014

A Will for the Woods

A Will for the Woods
Directed by: Amy Browne, Tony Hale, Jeremy Kaplan, Brian Wilson
Released on: August 15th, 2014 [SCREENINGS]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Faced with a terminal illness, Clark Wang decides to eschew America's typical burial methods and take the green way out and under.

At most a slight deviation from the way most humans have been buried since the beginning of time (and continue to do so in much of the world), a green burial is the eco-friendly, formalized ritual where the deceased is laid to rest in a natural setting using biodegradable materials. There is no embalming or concrete involved. Often a simple stone is used as the marking spot.

Not only does this ritual allow one to "return to the earth" in an environmentally responsible way, it also allows natural land to remain free from development since the land is now a burial site.

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Monday
Aug182014

Life After Beth

Life After Beth
Directed by: Jeff Baena
Released on: August 15th, 2014 [LIMITED]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Written and directed by Jeff Baena, Life After Beth tells the comedic-tragic teenage tale of a single child named Beth Slocum (Aubrey Plaza) who went hiking one day, was bitten by a snake and died. (Snakes and teenage girls are always a scary combination.)

At first, Beth's death causes great grief in her father, Maury (John C. Reily), her mother, Geenie (Molly Shannon) and her boyfriend, Zach Orfman (Dane DeHaan). Following the funeral, Zach begins to bond with Beth's parents, especially Maury. The two play chess together, talk about what they wished they had said to Beth when she was alive and they even share some wacky tobacky. Geenie gives Zach Beth's winter scarf, which he wears around his neck like a chain in the summertime.

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Sunday
Aug172014

Around the Block

Around the Block
Directed by: Sarah Spillane
Released on: August 1st, 2014 [LIMITED]
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

After a hiatus, American Dino Chalmers (Christina Ricci) has returned to Australia to be with her fiance, Simon (Daniel Henshall). A bright-eyed idealist, Dino takes a job at Redfern High School. Redfern High School is located in a particularly rough neighborhood in Sydney.

In the first of the film's numerous too-convenient tropes, Dino notices one of the students, Liam (Hunter Page-Lochard), a teenager who she filmed in the streets the day before, happens to be in her class.

Liam has troubles. He lives in a poor, violent neighborhood known as The Block. His Mum (Ursula Yovich) is unemployed; his father, Jack (Matt Nable), is in prison; and his older brother, Steve (Mark Coles Smith), plans to avenge his father's imprisonment and uncle's death.

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