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Wednesday
Jul152015

Self/less

Self/less
Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Release Date: July 10th, 2015
Grade: 2.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Tarsem Singh first caught my eye as the director of the dazzling music video of REM’s “Losing My Religion” and I was excited to see him break into Hollywood with his 2000 sci-fi debut, The Cell. That film’s plot, about a psychologist who uses advanced technology to enter the mind of a comatose serial killer, wasn't as good as it must have sounded on paper, but the movie was watchable because of Tarsem’s spectacular and disturbing visuals.

His latest film, Self/less, covers similar territory in terms of exploring man’s psyche and its relationship to the body. It concerns Damian Hale, played by Sir Ben Kingsley, a ruthless New York tycoon who is close to dying from terminal cancer. Of course a filthy rich son-of-a-bitch would want to live forever, so he decides to try a new procedure called “shedding,” where his mind will be transplanted from his dying body into a younger body (Ryan Reynolds) grown fresh in a lab.

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Wednesday
Jul152015

Black Sea

Black Sea
Director: Kevin Macdonald
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: May 5th, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Black Sea stars the always impeccable Jude Law as Captain Robinson, a salvager who has spent most of his life working on a sub away from home, losing his wife and son as a result. When he is let go by his employers, he feels betrayed. Desperate for a payday and hoping to reclaim what he surrendered in his life, he takes a risky job commanding a submarine to the bottom of the Black Sea.

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Wednesday
Jul152015

Dope

Dope
Directed by: Rick Famuyiwa
Released on: June 19th, 2015
Grade: 3.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Dope is a vibrant coming-of-age story about Malcolm (Shamiek Moore) and his pals Diggy (Kiersey Clemons) and Jib (Tony Revolori, The Grand Budapest Hotel) set in the Bottoms, a rough section of Inglewood, California. They find escape by immersing themselves in the hip-hop of the 1990s and by playing in a punk rock band called Awreeoh. Within their neighborhood, they are outcasts. They are looked at suspiciously because of their lack of gang affiliation and are bullied for doing “white shit” like applying for college. Malcolm hopes that getting into Harvard University will be his way out of the Bottoms.

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Thursday
Jul022015

A Little Chaos

A Little Chaos
Directed by: Alan Rickman
Release Date: June 26th, 2015
Grade: 2.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Actor/director Alan Rickman’s A Little Chaos stars Kate Winslet as the widowed Sabine De Barra, who makes her living as a landscaper in 1682 Paris. Unorthodox and bold, she is carving out her own distinct style. She is interviewed by court landscape architect of King Louis XIV, André Le Nôtre (Matthias Schoenaerts), who needs help after being tasked by the King (Rickman also pulling directing duty) to create an outdoor ballroom for the Gardens of Versailles, complete with a cascade fountain.

Though reluctant at first, André is charmed by Sabine’s free-spiritedness and engineering prowess and brings her on board the project. Though she is met with some resistance because of her gender, she overcomes and finds favor with the royalty court, including the flamboyant Duke Philippe of Orleans (the amusing Stanley Tucci) and the King himself.

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Thursday
Jul022015

The Gunman

The Gunman
Directed by: Pierre Morel
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: June 30th, 2015
Grade: 1.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

A good action movie works because the fun and thrills can suspend the audience’s disbelief of the genre’s inherent shortcomings. A good action movie can be intelligent without clubbing you over the head with a ham-handed message. A good action movie has an amiable tough-guy hero protagonist who saves the day.

The problem with The Gunman is that it’s tired and bland instead of fun and thrilling, with its impact also blunted by the presence of its hero and producer Sean Penn. The two-time Academy Award winner (Milk, Mystic River) is without a doubt a fine dramatic actor who chooses his roles very carefully for maximum intensity. That’s why it’s rather peculiar for him to step outside his usual template to do such an unspectacular action film.

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Thursday
Jul022015

The Familiar: Volume 1, One Rainy Day In May

The Familiar: Volume 1, One Rainy Day In May
Author/Publisher: Mark Z Danielewski/Pantheon
Release Date: May 12th, 2015
Grade: 2.5 out of 5 Meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz

Danielewski is a hard author for me to ignore. New, original, inventive, experimental, and highly visual, using the language of Comics and Film to spread words around the page like a verbal Jackson Pollock, throwing traditional formatting out of eight different windows to get there. I loved House of Leaves but have been disappointed in everything he has put out since that work because of one large glaring flaw: Danielewski’s formatting play and dense, beautiful language (especially in Only Revolutions) often serve as pseudo-intellectual window dressing for a very simple or very underdeveloped story, like a cake made of icing. I’ve often wondered if I was tricked by this on my first go-round with Danielewski in House of Leaves, but on re-read, I’ve come to the conclusion that House of Leaves is in fact good, just not as good as I thought it was. The experimental window dressing in House of Leaves informs the story for the most part, except for the fact that it allows the novel to come to no conclusion by cloaking even the narrative in a guise of “the mysterious unknown” that is the source of the horror of the ever-growing house.

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Thursday
Jul022015

Satin Island

Satin Island
Author/Publisher: Tom McCarthy/Knopf
Release Date: February 17th, 2015
Grade: 1 out of 5 Meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz

This is a book for those who revel in the abstract world of ideas. Both crunchy-philosophers reading Alan Watts and straight-laced academics reading Levi-Strauss or Slavoj Zizek. Satin Island is full of rare-gem aphorisms such as: “The first move for any strategy of cultural production… must be to liberate things — objects, situations, systems — into uselessness” or “A city has no “character”; it is a schizoid headspace, filled with the cacophony of contradiction.”

Satin Island starts out dry, seemingly to create a tricky gauntlet through which the reader must pass in order to prove their worthiness and appreciation for the meat of the book. All we get for the first 30 pages is anthropological jargon, from which we deduce that the main character U is writing a large study/theory on the whole world known as “The Great Report.” But U’s main job is writing these reports about a certain major corporation, of which he is in the direct employ of.

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Thursday
Jun252015

U2 @ United Center

U2
Where: United Center
When: June 24th, 2015
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

If there is one lesson learned walking away from U2’s opening of a five night stint at the United Center this evening, it’s that U2 is more than just Bono (and his signature sunglasses). Like many monumental rock bands of the last several decades, the frontman often becomes the band to a lot of people.  Until tonight, I was one of those people.  After witnessing U2 perform to an arena the size of the United Center, however, the way the band functions as a unit while still managing to make every person feel like they have a front row seat, is really a sight to behold.  Before this evening, I was more of an old school U2 fan — I grew up with their first few albums and, of course, The Joshua Tree made a huge impact on the music aficionado in me upon its release — but the Innocence + Experience show was immersive and captivating enough to inspire me to really dig into their last ten years’ worth of material.

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Thursday
Jun182015

One Cut, One Life

One Cut, One Life
Directors: Ed Pincus, Lucia Small
Released: May 15th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 of of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

After the notable documentarian Ed Pincus was diagnosed with a terminal illness (compounded by other illnesses), he reunited with collaborator Lucia Small (The Axe in the Attic) to create a final first-person nonfiction film, One Cut, One Life.

Told by two different, but not too different, points of view, along with the sporadic disapproval of Ed's wife, Jane, One Cut, One Life offers a grand farewell to one of cinema's most important filmmakers and the wife, friend and filmmaker he left behind.

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Sunday
Jun142015

Rush @ United Center

Rush
Where: United Center
When: June 12th, 2015
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Defying the odds and shattering wrongful expectations that a band like Rush shouldn’t be filling up arenas like the United Center, the legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Famers delivered an electrifying set to celebrate their 40th year as a band with Neil Peart behind the kit.  There are quite clearly two divisions of Rush fans: those who like their radio hits such as “Tom Sawyer,” “Fly By Night,” and “Closer to the Heart” and those who appreciate their AOR format (Album Oriented Rock).  Rush’s R40 tour caters more to the latter, but there’s no doubt that all fans left the building feeling satisfied.  As someone who’s loved this band for 25 of those 40 years, I’d never seen Rush onstage and I’m still putting pieces of my brain back together from how hard this show absolutely blew my mind.

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