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Friday
Jul152016

Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Directed by: Paul Feig
Release Date: July 16th, 2016
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

For the love of all that is great and wonderful in the universe, if you are going to remake a beloved movie, please make it better than the original. Otherwise what’s the point? For example, another version of Ben-Hur is set to be released next month. The 1959 version starring Charleton Heston and directed by William Wyler, itself a remake, still stands among the best films ever and certainly head and shoulders over the crap the studios pump out today. Why, Hollywood? Why?

You can ask the same question for the new Ghostbusters film. While it does have its funny moments and some decent special effects, there’s no real reason for its existence other than to make Sony money. Hell, even Columbia Pictures made a whole new division called Ghost Corps as a way to broaden the appeal of the Ghostbusters brand. This franchise isn’t going to die anytime soon.

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Friday
Jul082016

Our Little Sister

Our Little Sister
Directed by: Hirokazu Kore-eda
Released on: July 8th, 2016
Grade: 2 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Another saccharine story by Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda (After Life; Like Father, Like Son), Our Little Sister may be meticulously shot, offer competent and attractive actors — the likes of which we rarely see in American cinema — and told in Japanese with English subtitles, but it as emotionally superficial as a Hollywood movie by the likes of Nancy Myers or Cameron Crowe (except Kore-eda uses Asian actors when the story calls for it).

Based on the best selling manga novel by Yoshida Akimi, Umimachi Diary, Out Little Sister starts off obvious enough and then proceeds down its predictable path before its long overdue and comforting conclusion.

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Thursday
Jul072016

The Innocents

The Innocents
Directed by: Anne Fontaine
Released on: July 1st, 2016
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Poland, December 1945. A group of Benedictine nuns sing praises to God. Ritual and simplistic, these notes offer comfort and peace. Suddenly, the harmonious hymns are pierced by a scream of agony. The scream is both literal and metaphorical, for these nuns of the Polish Church are agonized by what man, nature and God have put them through.

In response to the scream, Sister Maria (Agata Buzek) seeks the help of a doctor — "not a Polish or Russian doctor." This brings her to Mathilde Beaulieu (Lou de Laâge), a doctor working for the French Red Cross.

Reluctant at first to help a nun, the leftist doctor is moved by Maria's predicament and agrees to come back to the convent.

The nuns are possessed by a shocking secret.

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Tuesday
May172016

Doom

Doom | PS4
Released: May 13th 2016
Developer/Publisher: Bethesda
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Pawl Schwartz

Doom
is a game that deserves the self-titled reboot, which, when dealing with a game as historic and genre-changing as the Doom franchise, is saying a whole hell of a lot. It’s a name older and bigger than Half-Life, that actually delivers sequels at a slow but steady pace, putting so much work and industrial-love into each edition that we never have to worry about a Duke Nukem Forever type situation happening, despite id Software’s long and messy history.

Everything about Doom is just so viscerally loud, violent, and smooth, all delivered with that un-nameable Doom-ness about it, updated quite perfectly from the graphical hell that the original game looks like nowadays.

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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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