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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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Wednesday
Aug062014

DOWNLINK @ Sound-bar

Downlink
Where: Sound-bar
When: August 1st, 2014
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

More often than not, when you go see your favorite dubstep producer live, you’re seeing a DJ set – but even more often, said DJ set is executed in the laziest manner possible.  Maybe they’re using beat sync or maybe the entire set is pre-mixed – the possibilities are endless as to how you can potentially ‘cheat’ your audience into believing there’s a lot going on behind the decks (if there even are decks).  I’m very happy to tell you that none of this is the case when you go see Downlink live.  After witnessing his set from the DJ booth at Sound-bar this past Friday night, I can say without a shred of doubt that this was the most live DJ set I’ve seen outside of going to underground parties where you’re only as awesome as how well you can spin.  In fact, his set took me back to my days of frequenting ‘raves’ where people actually would spin a DJ set into a work of art.

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Monday
Aug042014

HEART @ Ravinia Festival

Heart
Where: Ravinia Festival
When: August 3rd, 2014
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

If there was ever one band to exude the most longevity, relevancy, and artistic prowess across a lengthy career spanning multiple decades, that band is most certainly Heart.   They may have had a lull or two where they were still releasing music that just might not have been par for the course of everything else they’ve done, but they never stopped and that’s what matters most.  In fact, you could say Heart has hit a second wind in the last 10 years.  All the proof you’d need is just to go see them live, which I was fortunate enough to do last night at the gorgeous and comforting Ravinia Festival grounds for a sold out set.

This being my first time at Ravinia, I was extremely pleased with the experience.  The staff are very accommodating and knowledgeable, the sound was excellent, and the atmosphere in general was very calming and perfect for an outdoor show.  Granted, this is a Heart show and they attract a crowd consisting of a melting pot of age ranges – but the venue makes up a large portion of the overall aura of the evening.  Once Heart took the stage, two things quickly became evident: 1. We’re in for a set of greatest hits (which is a good thing, of course) and 2. This band has aged better than any other, especially anyone who’s been around as long as they have.

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Wednesday
Jul302014

CENOB1TE || Mindkiller + Control (singles)

Cenob1te
"Mindkiller"/"Control"
(single releases)
Released on: July 21st/28th 2014
Label: Uplink Audio
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

It’s no secret that I’m personally a huge fan of Chicago’s own Cenob1te.  The tracks they’ve released so far have all been more than solid, they’ve been consistent with each one expanding upon the groundwork they’ve laid out since they first dropped “Hell” in 2011.  After a brief hiatus, they’re back and stronger than ever.  They just dropped a new single, “Mindkiller,” through Downlink’s Uplink Audio imprint and in honor of hitting 5,000 followers on Soundcloud, they just released “Control” as a free download.  Both of these songs feature some of the clearest and most pristine production I’ve heard in electronic music thus far – save for the big classic names like Aphex Twin, Noisia, Chemical Brothers, etc.  Cenob1te may be in an entirely different sub-genre from those names, but the caliber of these tunes is just as impressive.

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Friday
Jul112014

A Coffee in Berlin (Oh Boy)

A Coffee in Berlin ("Oh Boy"/Germany)
Directed by: Jan Ole Gerster
Released on: June 13th, 2014 (USA)
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Winner of six German Film Academy Awards, including Outstanding Feature Film, Best Director and Best Actor, Jan Ole Gerster's wry indie flick about the metamorphosis a young 20-something-year-old named Niko (32-year-old Tom Schilling) and his experiences —without getting a damn cup of coffee — is just as good as his country's men's soccer team.

A college dropout without a job, Niko has been filling his life with aimlessness, lethargy and his share of citations for drinking and driving under the influence of alcohol. He just left his girlfriend, Elli (Katharina Schuttler) in Paris, his things are not unpacked in his Berlin apartment and his friends have to drag him out anywhere. Sometimes Niko makes an effort to get a cup of coffee, but that seems to be as impossible for him to achieve as anything Niko is not trying to do.

One day, through a series of events, Niko encounters various kinds of individuals — some new, some familiar. Drug dealers, drunk teenage punks, an actor playing a Nazi in a film (Arnd Klawitter), a kind grandma (Lis Bottner) protecting her drug dealing grandson (Theo Trebs), a smarmy psychologist (Andreas Schroders), and an enraged father (Ulrich Noethen) who has just found out his son's actual matriculation status. These encounters reinforce Niko's sense of alienation and ennui.

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Friday
Jul112014

Borderlands 2

Borderlands 2 | PS Vita
Released: May 14th, 2014 (reviewed July 2014)
Developer/Publisher: Gearbox Software / 2k Games
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz

You like video games; you already played and beat Borderlands 2. Cool, so did I and I still bought this game, and it has still afforded me more hours of gaming than any other out on Vita thus far. Some of it is just because of the sheer power of wonder involved in seeing such a large game released only a year ago, shrunk down so quickly. It’s fucking mad! I’m sure the cell shading made it easier, but the game looks exactly the same.

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Friday
Jul112014

Chef

Chef
Directed by: Jon Favreau
Released on: May 9th, 2014 LIMITED (July showtimes at Landmark
Grade: 3.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

After a series of high-concept spectacles including Cowboys & Aliens and the first couple Iron Man films, writer/director/actor Jon Favreau returns to the pleasant, character-driven fare that got his career off the ground with Chef. He stars as Carl Casper, the titular gourmet. A divorced workaholic, he spends the very limited time he has with his son, Percy (Emjay Anthony), making runs to the farmer’s market and buying ingredients for the Los Angeles restaurant where he serves as head chef.

In anticipation of a visit by prominent restaurant critic Ramsey Michel (Oliver Platt), Carl and his crew are hard at work to refine the menu, but restaurant owner Riva (Dustin Hoffman) forces him to instead keep the familiar menu, for it is his “greatest hits” that built up the clientele. When Carl’s cooking is panned in the review, he joins Twitter, launches a war of words via tweets, and ends up an embarrassing Internet meme. Choosing to keep his integrity rather than bow to the demands of Riva, Carl quits the restaurant.

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