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Monday
Feb232015

Things of the Aimless Wanderer

Things of the Aimless Wanderer
Director: Kivu Ruhorahoza
Released on: January 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

It does not take long to realize Kivu Ruhorahoza's Things of the Aimless Wanderer is something special. Well, different at least.

Set in North Rwanda, Things of the Aimless Wanderer begins with somewhat of a prologue where an Rwandan warrior (Ramadhan Bizimana) stalks a lonely white dude (Justin Mulliken) wandering the jungle. While wandering the jungle, whitey encounters a young, topless Rwandan woman (Grace Nikuze). There is a gaze off between the three characters.

Cut to early 21st century and "A girl has disappeared."

Told in three different yet related stories Ruhorahoza calls "a working hypothesis," the disappearance of the girl (or, rather, a young woman) offers up three scenarios involving sex, murder and shame. Using the same actors — plus a narrator (Matt Ray Brown) who speaks for the white journalist — the smaller stories are rather about bigger issues about the culture of Rwanda changing and expanding and how Rwandans are adapting to it (an allegory of sorts some may say). Except we are not getting a direct viewpoint from Rwandans but vis-a-vis what Ruhorahoza imagines what an American (or perhaps any white westerner) would see if he or she lived among the anxious Rwandans.

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Monday
Feb232015

Cronies

Cronies
Director: Michael Larnell
Released on: Janury 25th, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther 

Louis (George Sample III) and Jack (Zurich Bucker) go way back. Childhood friends, these two share the kind of special bond that no two kids should ever have to share. But the years have gone by, and while Louis seems to have matured — at least a little — Jack is as angry and edgy as ever.

Accordingly, Louis currently prefers the company of Andrew (Brian Kowalski), a kid from the other side of the 'hood but no less slothful and youthful than Louis or Jack. "Andy," however, is a lot more mellow than Jack.

Until the day of the (mostly) black and white "Cronies" takes place, Jack had never heard or met Andrew. This is in part due to the fact that if Louis had mentioned Andrew, the mistrustful Jack would have annoyed Louis with questions fueled by insecurity and masked by anger.

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Monday
Feb232015

Chorus

Chorus
Director: François Delisle
Released on: January 23rd, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / March 2015 [Canada]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Shot in black and white and mostly during Canadian winter months, the look of Chorus is as dreary as its tale of woe.

A man named Jean-Pierre (Luc Senay) walks into an interrogation room and sits down across from a police official named Hervé (Didier Lucien). He does not want a lawyer. The overweight, slouching (toward Gomorrah) criminal is there to admit to another crime he committed. It happened ten years ago and it involves an 8-year-old boy who was not very good at sports, had lost his bike key and broke the cardinal rule about getting into a car with strangers.

As Jean-Pierre continues his story, a sense of dread seeps in. This is a story which cannot end well. But, before Jean-Pierre is done telling his story, writer-director-cinematographer-editor Francois Delisle's film cuts away to the film's two protagonists, a couple filled with existential dread. Except the couple are no longer together.

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Monday
Feb232015

Dreamcatcher

Dreamcatcher
Director: Kim Longinotto
Released on: January 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Brenda Myers-Powell is not the kind of person you want to meet at night. It is not that she is a bad or dangerous person or that she is straight up annoying or anything like that. If you run into Mrs. Myers-Powell at night it is most likely because you are living a very troubled life.

Born in 1962, Myers-Powell started getting molested before the age of five. Abused and confused, she had two children by the age of fifteen. At that time, she and her daughters were living with her grandmother and grandmother had bills to pay.

To help grandma out, Myers-Powell did what the ladies across the street from her grandmother’s house did: prostitution. Turning tricks at the age of fifteen, Myers-Powell would remain a prostitute on the streets of Westside Chicago for 25 years. Over those years, “Breezy” was beaten, stabbed, addicted to narcotics and not very present for her two daughters. It took a near-death experience shortly before her 40th birthday to get Myers-Powell to reevaluate her life and get off the streets.

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Monday
Feb162015

The Bronze

The Bronze
Directed by: Bryan Buckley
Released on: January 22nd, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / TBA 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

If you found the comedy of director Paul Feig’s Bridesmaids just a little too quaint and bore-joy-see for your tastes, The Bronze,
directed by Bryan Buckley and co-written by wife and husband Melissa and Winston Raunch, should be right up your golden hole.

Once an inspiration to millions of Americans, Hope Anne Greggory (Melissa Raunch) was an Olympic gymnast who refused to let a major injury stop her from competing for a gold medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics. Hope fell short and earned the bronze medal. Nonetheless, she became a national star and the little darling of her hometown, Amherst, Ohio. Her fame was short-lived, however, and it wasn't long before nobody in the world cared except the people of Amherst and her father, Stan (Gary Cole).

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Monday
Feb162015

Eden

Eden
Director: Mia Hansen-Løve
Released on: January 23rd, 2015 [Sundance Film Festival] / May 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Spanning over two decades, director Mia Hansen-Løve’s Eden chronicles the garage-techno-electronic music scene from 1992 to the near-present through the film’s protagonist, Paul (Felix de Givry).

When we first meet Paul he is studying literature at a local Paris university. He seems to have great promise in writing, but his interests lie in the newfound beats sweeping around America and parts of Western Europe. From Chicago to Berlin to New York to London to Stockholm, DJs were adamant on keeping disco alive (what punk rock?). Since disco had become pop music and youth like to rebel – even if their rebellion is reactionary at times – they no longer called it disco but whatever genre moniker was the tune of the day.

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Monday
Feb092015

MARILYN MANSON @ Riviera Theatre

Marilyn Manson
Where: Riviera Theatre
When: February 5th, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Since Marilyn Manson has finally put out a record worthy of standing next to the rest of his canon (unlike 2012's Born Villain and 2009's The High End of Low), it only made sense that the show would follow suit, or so I hoped.  Walking up to the Riviera Theatre, it was cold as hell – you know, because in the words of Manson himself, “They Said That Hell’s Not Hot” – and although the show had yet to sell out, the place was packed to the brim.  So much, in fact, that security wouldn’t allow anyone on the main floor in front of the stage and Manson still wouldn’t take the stage for another hour.  The excitement in the room was palatable, making it clear that not only are his faithful fans still trudging along with him all these years, but he’s also picked up some new followers from the younger sect.  Hey, Manson wouldn’t be Manson if he’s not inspiring children to be themselves still.  That’s how I, myself, came to love him over 15 years ago after all.  This being my fourth time seeing him, I knew I was in store for either a total disaster like the last time I saw him while touring for The High End of Low or it would be spectacular like the first time I saw him – luckily for everyone at the Riviera, it was quite certainly the latter.

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Sunday
Jan112015

MARILYN MANSON || The Pale Emperor

Marilyn Manson
The Pale Emperor

Label: Hell, etc.
Released on: January 20th, 2015
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Marilyn Manson has finally done it.  If you’ve been waiting for a record that holds up well next to other classics like Mechanical Animals or Antichrist Superstar, then The Pale Emperor is your holy grail.  This album is not only a true return to form for the dark one, but it finds him exploring the groundwork he laid out on his last truly great album, Eat Me, Drink Me.  Like that album, these songs have the same abrasive ‘recorded in one take’ feel to them.  It may not be as metal and taboo as his early material, but that’s what makes this so much like his older music.  He’s shocking his listeners with the unexpected – in this case, a sound fueled by fuzzy bass riffs, crunchy funked out guitars that wouldn’t sound out of place on Bowie’s Station To Station album, with unapologetically honest lyrics and vocal delivery that drips with a pain only a lovely devil like Manson would know.  When you listen to Eat Me, Drink Me and similarly on The Pale Emperor, you can practically feel Mr. Brian Warner bleeding his soul into your ears…it’s uncomfortable yet comforting.  For those of us who remember when ‘Mar1lyn Man5on’ was practically an alien from outer space, it’s nice to have a glimpse into his humanity once in a while…The Pale Emperor is most certainly just that.

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Friday
Nov212014

Little Hope Was Arson

Little Hope Was Arson
Director: Theo Love
Released on: November 18th, 2014 [Limited/VOD]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

For East Texas and the rest of the Bible Belt, God is an important part of people’s lives. Some churches have stood over a century and have served as a meeting place for families going back many generations. People have been baptized, married and eulogized within the walls of these buildings.

And just as the people of East Texas believe in a powerful, righteous God, so too is their belief in an evil, malevolent Devil. In 2010, ten churches were set ablaze across three East Texas counties. Families and congregations in the area became fearful — some even believing Satan himself was destroying the churches. The crimes and the ensuing investigation are the subject of Little Hope Was Arson, an engaging, true-life crime story that shows that community bonds strengthen in the face of sinister transgressions.

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Thursday
Nov202014

Three Hundred Million

Three Hundred Million
Author/Publisher: Blake Butler/Harper Perennial
Release Date: October 14th, 2014
Grade: 5 out of 5 Meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz

Three Hundred Million blasts off like an LSD pipe bomb from page one, beginning in a messy big bang of vague, sociopathic declarations and aphasia-level word-salad that washes over and through the rest of the book like static on a TV, always struggling against the solid footing given to the reader by the interspersed monologues of "normal people," Gravey's "boys," and how they were drawn to our disoriented narrator, the thing inside Gravey.

“The World occurs because of god,” the book starts. “In our year here god is not a being but a system, composed in dehydrated fugue. Under terror-sleep alive we hear it heaving in and out from the long bruises on our communal eternal corpse, consuming memory. The wrecking flesh of Him surrounds, holds us laced together every hour, overflowing and wide open, permeable to inverse, which no identity survives.”

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