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Sunday
Nov152015

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: A Novel

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: A Novel
Author/Publisher: David Wong/Thomas Dunne Books
Release Date: Oct 6th, 2015
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed By: Pawl Schwartz

Wong has excelled so far, graduating from Cracked.com university and now on to being a big-time author. His first book you already know is John Dies at the End, a fun-as-hell, hilarious ride for any fan of the great horror comedies (Evil Dead, Dead and Breakfast, Shaun of the Dead, etc.), which was made into a pretty mediocre movie. Weird, right? Wong is horror/comedy on the page, but when translated to film, it just doesn’t feel as explosive or clever. Perhaps it’s because I read the book first; but one thing is for sure: Wong hasn’t painted himself into a corner with his genre island, and he has excelled in his newest novel Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits.

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Friday
Oct232015

Heart of a Dog

Heart of a Dog
Directed by: Laurie Anderson
Released on: October 17th, 2015 [Chicago International Film Festival]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

In her autobiographical documentary, Heart of a Dog, renowned artist-composer Laurie Anderson utilizes 8mm home videos, the artist's own hand illustrations/drawings and musical compositions (old and new), her artwork, and that notable affected voice of hers to offer her own musings on life and death in the 21st century.

Although the documentary is dedicated to Anderson's late husband — the fine, fine, rock 'n' roll legend Lou Reed — surprisingly and thankfully, rather than focus on her relationship with Reed, Anderson uses her rat terrier canine pet, Lolabelle (who died in 2011, a year before Reed), as the springboard for her musings.

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Friday
Oct232015

Experimenter

Experimenter
Directed by: Michael Almereyda
Released on: October 16th, 2015
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

One of the most influential and innovative American psychologists of the 20th century, Stanley Milgram gets some long overdue recognition, via cerebral cinematic biopic form, in the latest film by Michael Almereyda (Nadja; last year's Cymbeline).

Growing up Jewish during mid-20th century America, Milgram (a stellar Peter Sarsgaard) was deeply affected by WWII and the Holocaust. How could so many people commit so much evil? An incredibly intelligent person who knew better than to assign it to "the brilliance of Hitler," Milgram wanted to understand the obedience of the populace before authoritative figures.

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Friday
Oct232015

Goosebumps

Goosebumps
Directed by: Rob Letterman
Release Date: October 16th, 2015
Grade: 2.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

I once did a book report in eighth grade on The Snowman by R. L. Stine. It was the only book of his I ever read all the way through. It was a young adult thriller about a teenage girl whose boyfriend is a killer. It was during that time I was getting into Ghostface and Leatherface, and imagined the book as if it were directed by Wes Craven. That would sure have been a hell of a flick. As I was watching Goosebumps, based on his super best selling children’s novel series that I never read, I was wishing we were watching that unmade adaptation of The Snowman.

That’s not to say I completely disliked Goosebumps or blame it for being a family-friendly horror movie. In terms of its function, the film succeeds in pleasing the kiddos, who reacted favorably during my particular screening. If one is a millennial (I hate this term but I’m unaware of a better one) who enjoyed the books growing up, it’s possible they could enjoy it for the nostalgia. But for the uninitiated, it’s only slightly entertaining.

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Friday
Oct162015

The Assassin

The Assassin
Directed by: Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Released on: October 16th, 2015 [LIMITED]
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: John Esther

Set during the first decade of 9th-century China, the latest film by director/co-writer Hou Hsaio-Hsien (Three Times; Raise the Red Balloon) tells the story of a woman who cannot seem to follow orders and kill her target.

Once destined for a life of privilege, Yinniang Nie (Qi Shu) was kidnapped at the age of 10 by a decorated general and raised by a Princess-nun, Jiaxin (Fang-Yi Sheu). Jiaxin taught the discarded girl martial arts.

Thirteen years later — where the eventually-colored film commences in black and white — Yinniang is now a trained assassin ordered to kill corrupt officials during the final years of the Tang Dynasty (06/618-06/907).

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Friday
Oct162015

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon
Directed by: Douglas Tirola
Released on: September 25th, 2015 [Limited]
Grade: 4 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

My introduction to the National Lampoon brand was as a wee lad watching the Vacation movies with my family, and by the time I became aware of the seminal humor magazine which the films were spun-off from, it was in decline and unavailable to me growing up. Though National Lampoon ceases to exist as a periodical, its impact on American comedy is still being felt today.

The history of National Lampoon is explored in this funny and fascinating documentary by director Douglas Tirola (All In: The Poker Movie). He effectively combines magazine highlights, clips, photos and meaningful interviews with a very large array of people associated with National Lampoon, examining a subversive brood of talented writers, artists and performers whose contributions changed the comedy landscape.

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Monday
Oct122015

IAMX || Metanoia

IAMX
Metanoia
Released on: October 2nd, 2015
Label: Metropolis Records/Caroline International
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Hardly in need of a reinvention, IAMX aka Chris Corner has once again repositioned himself as the singular alternative (if you’re a fan, yes, that’s a reference) artist we should all be watching closely.  Each album he releases seems like another small glimpse into the mind of a musical madman.  I’m one of those people who I normally can’t stand when it comes to IAMX, you know the type…”I’ve been a fan since the beginning, even since before the beginning.”  It’s true though, I’ve followed Corner since his early days with Sneaker Pimps in the 90s…I loved their material with him fronting the band loads more than their debut album with the band’s former vocalist, Kelli Ali.  But once the Pimps dissolved, IAMX happened and the project seemed like the full realization of what I always wanted Sneaker Pimps to be.  Mr. Corner has rarely had a misstep – I wasn’t the biggest fan of his Volatile Times album, but I still appreciated it exponentially more than anything else happening in music at the time.  This time around with Metanoia, IAMX has released an album that harkens heavily back to his analog-synth riddled and insanely hook-heavy debut album.  Only now with a broader sonic palette of sounds in his arsenal, the record is the most honest evolution of IAMX’s sound that we’ve heard yet.

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Tuesday
Oct062015

The Walk

The Walk
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Released on: September 30th, 2015 [IMAX 3D]
Grade: 4.5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Maestro Robert Zemeckishas always been on the vanguard of cinematic technical wizardry. Since many of the films he has directed are part of the American cinematic canon — such as Back to the Future, Who Framed Roger Rabbit? and Forrest Gump, to name a few — would anyone really have any doubt that The Walk, his latest 3D spectacle, would be an unremarkable movie? Hell fucking no, they wouldn’t.

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Monday
Sep282015

Ride @ Riviera Theatre

Ride
Where: Riviera Theatre
When: September 25th, 2015
Grade: 5 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed and Photographed by: Neil Miller, Jr.

Once in a great while, you’ll stumble upon a lineup for a live show where the opener is just as enrapturing as the headliner.  Last night, The Besnard Lakes churned out a raucous set of their unique brand of psyched out dream-pop.  I’d heard the band a few times in the last several years, but I had no idea what to expect from their live show and it was a pleasant surprise.  If you haven’t seen or heard this band and you like artists like Ride, My Bloody Valentine, and even the Cocteau Twins and Sonic Youth, you’ll find a lot to appreciate in their catalog.  One song, “Albatross,” really hit me though – once their LED lighting setup kicked into full gear paired with billowing clouds of fog while they unleashed a torrent of comfortable noise, I felt like the band had somehow elevated my state of consciousness.  That or someone spiked my water with LSD.  Whatever the case, I can’t wait for another chance to see this band here in Chicago.  But of course, we were all there for the almighty Ride – and damn, did they deliver one of the most solid live sets I’ve ever witnessed.

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Thursday
Sep172015

Pixels

Pixels
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Released on DVD/Blu-Ray: October 27th, 2015
Grade: 3 out of 5 meatballs
Reviewed by: Justin Tucker

Given that this year is the 20th anniversary of the comedy classic Billy Madison, a lot has been recently written or said about not only about the legacy of that film, but also of the career of Adam Sandler. The general consensus, at least among my peers, is that his first few films — namely the aforementioned Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore — stand among the best comedies of its time, but his output has since become uninspired and unfunny.

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