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Tuesday
Mar152016

Carly Rae Jepsen @ Metro

Carly Rae Jepsen
Where: Metro
When: March 12th, 2016
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

In full disclosure, it begs mentioning that I am a HUGE Carly Rae Jepsen fan.  Especially after the earth-shattering album she dropped last year in the form of E•MO•TION, she’d managed to convert even her most passionate detractors into brand spankin’ new superfans.  Sure, I dug “Call Me Maybe” when it came out and I did lose my mind over “Tonight I’m Getting Over You” for a little while, but I never identified as a fan until last year.  E•MO•TION is the quintessential pop ALBUM.  Yes, that was in all caps intentionally because it’s important that everyone recognize what CRJ has accomplished here – she’s unleashed a modern day Bad or CrazySexyCool or Private Dancer or True Blue…you get the point.  The album is more legendary and game-changing than any sales figure or chart performance would ever suggest.  When you pair up the best sounds of the 80s and early 90s courtesy of a stellar production team with some impermeable songwriting, put all of that through the Carly Rae Jepsen hit-machine, and you’re bound to have a future classic on your hands.  While I would love to gush about E•MO•TION, we’re here to talk about her quite sold out Metro show.  But this lot had to be said because in all honesty, Carly could’ve sat on a milk crate and beatboxed her nearly 20 song set and I still would be giving the show a perfect rating coupled with a glowing review.  Judging by the audience’s reaction, though, the 5/5 rating is quite well deserved.

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Monday
Mar072016

Jack Garratt w/Kacy Hill @ Lincoln Hall

Jack Garratt w/Kacy Hill
Where: Lincoln Hall
When: March 6th, 2016
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

It’s ironic that soon-to-be-superstar Jack Garratt would cover a Justin Timberlake cut during his sold out Chicago date at Lincoln Hall.  Not just because he has a voice that rivals JT in the best of ways, but mostly because if anyone in this day and age can lay claim to the Throne of Prince, my money would be on Garratt before anyone else.  Sure, Timberlake has that voice, the moves, and the attitude – but Garratt runs the show in the artistry department.  Throughout his 10 song set, Jack performed quite literally everything we heard.  The kick drum to his beats are triggered by a foot pedal he stomps the life out of, the remainder of the percussive elements are played with one hand while the other hand is either playing the melodies on a synth or recording a guitar loop – even regurgitating this now is making my head spin.  Watching Jack perform is quite certainly a mesmerizing experience on many levels and here’s why…

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Tuesday
Feb232016

Omega Gray

Omega Gray
Author/Publisher: Seb Doubinsky/Bizarro Pulp Press
Release Date: Feb 1st, 2016
Grade: 5 out of 5 meaty fucking balls
Reviewed By: Pawl Schwartz

Omega Gray
will rearrange your face. If you know who John C. Lilly is — well, this is a welcome addition to the canon of psychedelic literature — coming from the land of bizarro. Not entirely unexpected, but only in the sense that you never know what to expect from a bizarro author like Seb.

The thesis of this work: “As a neurophysicist, what he wanted to know was if Death, as a physical place, was only a figment of our imagination, or if it was another dimension which we accessed through the process of dying.”

Not hooked? Omega Gray opens in the jungle with our protagonist, a college professor, sampling ayahuasca (I assume) for the first time, testing the above thesis by trying all manner of psychedelics in order to try and break through to the other real dimension that is death.

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Monday
Feb222016

Angel of Nanjing

Angel of Nanjing
Directed by: Frank Ferendo, Jordan Horowitz
Released on: VOD
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Since September 19, 2003, it has been estimated that Si Chen has saved somewhere between 150-300 lives. Chen is not a doctor. He is not a Hollywood superhero. And he certainly is not, literally, an angel. Chen is a human being who smokes too much, who "can't drink much," but who also cares so much about his fellowman and woman that he voluntarily patrols the Nanjing Yangtze River Bridge in Nanjing, China, every weekend, looking for people contemplating death.

On any given day people come to jump off and down 150 meters to "disappear" or "die clean" at the number one suicide destination in the world. (The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is number two). Unfortunately, Chen is not there every day to save lives because he works at Ping-An, a Logistic Company, during the week. Indeed, he often comes home to hear reports of yet another suicide.

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Monday
Feb222016

Zoolander 2

Zoolander 2
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Released on: February 12th, 2016
Grade: 1 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

From the opening scene, audiences will know exactly what to expect in Zoolander 2: a noisy, often nonsensical, unfunny enterprise with lots and lots of cameos from some of the culture industry's most recognized faces.

Looking like a lame music video, two daredevil motorcyclists are chasing singer-songwriter and non-actor Justin Bieber through the streets. (Fortunately the notoriously "dangerous" driver is on foot.) After getting gunned down in a hail of bullets a la Sonny Corleone (James Caan) in The Godfather, Bieber strikes a few selfie poses, picks the right one and then ends it out before his final breath.

It is a good thing none of those hundreds of bullets fired into Bieber ever struck one of the most recognizable faces in the world. Otherwise, it would have been very difficult for J-Beebs to send his facial message to the likes of Valentina Valencia (Penélope Cruz), leading agent of Interpol's Fashion Division.

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Monday
Feb222016

Jim: The James Foley Story

Jim: The James Foley Story
Directed by: Brian Oakes
Released on: HBO & Sundance Film Festival 2016
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

For most Americans, the introduction to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (AKA ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh) came via the video of American journalist James "Jim" Foley. Shaved, dressed in orange clothing and kneeling somewhere in a desert in Syria, Foley was forced to read "Warning to America" before a camera. After he finished reading the forced diatribe against family and country, Foley was beheaded.

The story of how the man met his tragic fate is the subject of director Brian Oakes documentary, Jim: The James Foley Story.

To the documentary's credit it makes it clear from the beginning that this will not be a sensationalized hagiography of the 40-year-old murdered journalist, but about why he did the work and the prices he, and others, paid for it. "The film shows images of war recorded by conflict journalists. It does not show the execution of Jim," the opening credits declare.

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Wednesday
Feb172016

TRANSVIOLET @ Metro

Transviolet
Where: Metro
When: February 16th, 2016
Grade: 3.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Crappy weather and a late Tuesday night set didn’t make for an ideal evening to head out to a show for a lot of Chicagoans, it seems.  Performing to a room of less than 100 people, NYxLA’s Transviolet had no trouble filling the empty space in the room with their fresh take on the booming electronic pop genre.  Since the general public has only heard a handful of songs from the young group, they loaded up their set with new songs that we’re sure to hear on their forthcoming debut album.  Although the band sounded great and Sarah McTaggart’s vocals were absolutely blissful, I was overcome with one burning question…

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Tuesday
Feb022016

A Good Wife

A Good Wife [Dobra zena]
Directed by: Mirjana Karanovic
Released at: Sundance Film Festival 2016
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Commencing and concluding with a disrupting male gaze that focuses on two circles of sorts, Serbian actor Mirjana Karanovic makes an impressive debut as director and co-writer in A Good 
Wife, a film about personal and political cancer in current Serbia. 

Milena (Karanovic) is 50-year-old mother of three taking care of hubby (Boris Isakovic) and household in a small suburb outside of Belgrade. A woman with little identity of her own, Milena fills her days shopping, gossiping with other equally vacuous (yet not so wealthy) housewives and watching home videos. 

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Tuesday
Feb022016

Pleasure. Love.

Pleasure. Love.
Directed by: Huang Yao
Released on: Sundance Film Festival 2016
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

In Huang Yao's Pleasure. Love. people in their 30s essentially have love (and career) worked out and it is up to them to impart that wisdom on their younger counterparts so they may in turn bestow such wisdom and assurance on future lovers. 

Two stories with overlapping narratives, the first one, "Pleasure" is the more interesting and developed one. Nan (Daizhen Ying) has moved to Beijing, China, to go to school, but he is soon expelled due to lack of payment. This leads to a job selling books on the street (how novel), which pays so little he is threatened with eviction (a distracting, underdeveloped subplot). One night he meets Yajie (Nan Yu). Gorgeous, middle class, older and more mature, only in cinema land would a painfully awkward guy like Nan get a woman Yajie's caliber.

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Monday
Jan042016

REACTION NYE w/Purity Ring & Skrillex

Reaction NYE w/Purity Ring & Skrillex
Where: Donald E. Stephens Convention Center
When: December 31st, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

To ring in the New Year, it seemed apt to go hard or go home – the latter of which is what I normally choose to do every year.  Of all the events happening around Chicago, React Presents’ Reaction NYE event seemed the most appealing.  With a diverse lineup teeming with great artists like Purity Ring, Skrillex, and Chicago’s own Autograf, it made sense to check out what was happening in Rosemont on this special evening.  When held up against the other options Chicagoans had for NYE plans, this certainly ended up as the place to be to bring in 2016.

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