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Tuesday, July 29

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A/C

Column Fri Jul 25 2014

Hercules, Lucy, A Most Wanted Man, I Origins, And So It Goes, Happy Christmas, Magic in the Moonlight, Under the Electric Sky & Closed Curtain

Steve-at-the-Movies-300.jpg

Hercules


My biggest complaint about the Dwayne Johnson version of Hercules (not to be confused with the January release The Legend of Hercules, starring Kellan Lutz; actually, no one would mistake the two) is that this fairly entertaining, slightly empty-headed piece would have been over-the-top insane were it not trying so hard to be PG-13. An R-rated Hercules would have ruled the empire. As it is, it's still remarkably violent and hilariously good/bad film from, of all people, director Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour trilogy), who at least is smart enough to let things get silly just when they're on the verge of getting too serious.

The film has an interesting take on the mythology of Hercules, in that it wonders what if the legend were actually a bit of a PR stunt to make Hercules more appealing as a for-hire mercenary. For example, what if the many-headed Hydra he defeated as part of his "Trials" was many not exactly the monster it's been made out to be, or if the three-headed dog Cerberus was actually just three separate dogs that just like to hang out together. In Hercules, the hero has a posse that includes the young Iolaus (Reece Ritchie) who is his personal hype machine, rewriting his every adventure into something bordering on mythology. There are even hints that Hercules may not be the son of Zeus and thus not part god.

Continue reading this entry »

Steve Prokopy / Comments (1)

Interview Thu Jul 24 2014

Artful Interviews at Pitchfork Music Festival

Pitchfork Music Festival is known for its eccentric, acclaimed and even avant-garde performances of high musical caliber, and for the attendees that create a show of their own with diverse fashion statements and individualistic notions. Another component to this weekend's three-day phantasmagoria was that of exquisite art, in the form of an installation known as the Geometric Village, curated by Johalla Projects and dreamed up by visionary artists Chad Kouri and Heather Gabel.

Good Times
Photo by Zachary James Johnston

As I stepped up to the Geometric Village on Saturday afternoon, I noticed sunlight streaming through the trees ahead of me, and falling upon the two upright pyramids in a simply lovely way. Each one allowed ample space for you to walk under it and absorb the messages seeded inside its carefully formed tunnel, one with skillfully designed words, and one with a collage of photographs, one of a skull, the other of a statue, and more. Both portions of the installation were vastly different, but in many ways, linked in commonalities. I noticed concertgoers interacting with the art pieces: some shuffling by quickly, others looking up at the peak and smiling, and a group sitting underneath, resting in a peaceful place. I oriented myself with the artwork, and then was lucky enough to have a chance to speak with curator Anna Cerniglia, and artists Chad and Heather, about the wistful yet introspective work they have been able to create at Pitchfork Music Festival this past weekend.

Continue reading this entry »

Sarah Brooks / Comments (0)

Theatre Thu Jul 24 2014

Arm Wrestlers Test Their Strength at CLLAW XIX

CLLAW18-1.jpgChicago's strongest women will flex their muscles this weekend as they elbow their way through CLLAW XIX, a Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers (CLLAW) competition.

Presented by the Sideshow Theatre Company, this marks the 19th CLLAW match, pitting the city's best female arm wrestlers against each other for a good cause. The bout features women arm wrestlers dressed in over-the-top get ups and promises shady referees and animated managers and entourages.

"The energy going into this CLLAW is really electric," said Karie Miller of Sideshow Theatre Company and a CLLAW organizer. "This match is unique in that about half of the wrestlers are new and about half are veterans."

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Miriam Finder / Comments (0)

Culture Thu Jul 24 2014

Getting the Best Part of Travel -- Meeting People from Other Places -- Right at Home

Chicago-Greeter.jpgBy Marianne Goss

I don't know when I first heard someone say that the best part of travel is meeting people from other places, but I've heard it repeated enough that it must be a widely held opinion. I think of it often as a Chicago Greeter, meeting and spending time with people from all over. I'm getting the best part of travel without leaving home.

I've given tours to travelers from all over the United States and far away — Brazil, Germany, Canada, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, the UK, Canada, Australia, Spain, Belgium, India, Israel, Singapore, Japan — I'd need to get out a map to recall more countries. "Tours" is probably too precise a word for what we Chicago Greeters do. We aren't required to follow a script or point out anything in particular, and we don't take out groups of strangers who arrive for a tour whose topic and time are posted on a website. Get-togethers with our guests, as we call the travelers, are more informal and personal. We take out people who are traveling together — a family, a couple, friends — or even a single person. They all know each other, and the greeter gets to know them. We take them to the places in Chicago we know and love best, impart some insider knowledge and talk about anything else they're interested in chatting with a Chicagoan about.

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A/C / Comments (0)

Theater Wed Jul 23 2014

Oracle Theatre Transports Us to 1906 Packingtown Chicago in The Jungle

GB-Oracle-Jungle-fullcast-Conner.jpg
Photo by Logan Conner.

In a space the size of my bedroom, Oracle Theatre slaughters and carves up cattle, fights for workers' rights, celebrates a wedding, worships at Christmas, and dies in childbirth. And with rolls of paper and paint, they conjure believable scenes of life in Chicago's Packingtown a century ago. (Take that, large downtown theaters that spend tens of thousands of dollars on scenery.)

Oracle's powerful world premiere production of The Jungle, adapted from the 1906 novel by muckraking journalist Upton Sinclair, makes us viscerally experience the poverty, horrible working conditions and labor strife of immigrant workers and their families.

The play begins with four people setting out from Lithuania to a place called Chicago, where they believe they can get work. Jurgis (Travis Delgado) is tall and strong and ready to work hard. His sweetheart Ona (Stephanie Polt) and her cousin Marija (Havalah Grace) are eager to work too. Marija has her Lithuanian-English dictionary so she can learn English. Even Jurgis' sickly father Antanas (Drew McCubbin) is ready to take a job.

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Nancy Bishop / Comments (0)

News Wed Jul 23 2014

Second City Expands, Makes "Room to Grow"

GB-secondcity2.jpgThe Second City is expanding their 20,300 square feet space to accommodate even more classrooms and facilities for students. The company will be leasing the 25,000 square foot former four-screen AMC movie theater next to its current Pipers Alley location, which closed in 2011.

The Second City Training Center is already the largest school of comedy in the world, but this new development will more than double the space and provide room for their growing curriculum.

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Megan Daley / Comments (0)

Art Mon Jul 21 2014

Chicago Tree Project Turns Dead Wood into Sculpture

This summer, the Chicago Park District and Chicago Sculpture International, commissioned artists based in the area to create artwork made out of dying trees. Either due to Emerald Ash Borer or various other tree diseases, these trees were transformed into sculptural pieces of art by selected artists around the Chicago area. Overall, a selection of 10 artists were made and each creative was given a tree to work over and embellish. The artists selected for this project are, Mia Capodilupo, Ron Gard, Kara James, Karl and Indira Johnson, Margot McMahon, Nicolette Ross, Marc Schneider, Vivian Visser, Taylor Wallace and Cheryl Williams.

The vibrant sculptures bring back to life the once sick and dying trees. In addition to this, the public art in conjunction with nature brings forth a beautiful display of creative work throughout the city of Chicago. The project was organized by Chicago Sculpture International which is a group of artists who promote sculpture as an important aspect to our communities and surroundings.

Learn more about the project and their locations by watching the video below and liking the Chicago Sculpture International Facebook page. Here is a map of the tree locations around the parks in the city.

Chicago Park District•Chicago Sculpture International Tree Project from Margot McMahon on Vimeo.

S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Chicago Speaks Mon Jul 21 2014

Chicago Speaks: Icelandic, as Spoken by Recruiter Lena Hallgrimsdottir

Chicago SpeaksAs a global city, Chicago is home to many languages besides English. Chicago Speaks profiles speakers of these languages, and shares some of their personal stories along the way.

When I met Lena Hallgrimsdottir at the Whole Foods in Lincoln Park, I asked her what it was like to have a native language shared by some 300,000 of the world's inhabitants -- fewer people, perhaps, than would visit that Whole Foods location over the next couple of months.

"We always look at it almost as our secret language," she says. "We're very careless. If we were walking around here, we would just be speaking about whatever, without ever worrying that anyone understands."

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Megan Marz / Comments (0)

Column Fri Jul 18 2014

Sex Tape, The Purge: Anarchy, Boyhood, Wish I Was Here, Dormant Beauty

Steve-at-the-Movies-300.jpg

Sex Tape

It may be an unwritten rule, but I'm pretty sure it's a rule nonetheless. If you're going to make a movie called Sex Tape about a suburban couple who make a three-hour-long sex tape to spice up their marriage, you have to have nudity for it to be both funny and effective. And when I say nudity, I mean committed baring of all parts from both leads, and not some Cameron Diaz ass double. Hire someone who is both funny and willing to commit to the conceit of the film. We know from films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall that Jason Segel (playing Diaz's husband, Jay) is not against going full frontal for laughs. I'm not saying we needed prolonged actual sex acts on screen, but give us some amount of nudity to enhance to laughs, because putting it all out there can be very funny.

Sex Tape actually does have one example of someone going the extra distance, although not in a naked way, and that person is Rob Lowe, who plays Hank, the mild-mannered CEO of a company looking to buy Annie's (Diaz) mommy blog. He has outlined a fairly conservative image he'd like Annie to project, and a leaked sex tape is not part of that image. When she and Jay end up at Hank's house, he has a prolonged conversation with Annie that gets stranger and more deranged with each passing second, and it's hilarious... while the rest of the movie struggles to generate consistent laughs.

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Art Sun Jul 13 2014

Two Rocks Do Not Make a Duck Exhibition at LVL3

LVL3, the crowd-pleasing alternative gallery space located in the heart of Wicker Park, had its opening reception last night for the exhibition, Two Rocks Do Not Make a Duck. Milano Chow, Sofia Leiby and Malin Gabriella Nordin are the three artists featured in the group show which exhibit detailed drawings, black and white collage and graffiti covered canvases. Typically, LVL3 hosts conceptual artists that spread out onto the floor, their paintings made up of duct tape and crayons or oddly shaped installations that involve teddy bears. Still conceptual, this show appears to be more tame. This is not to be taken the wrong way--this exhibit is absolutely a breath of fresh air, something viewers haven't seen at LVL3 recently.

Lvl3.jpg

Milano Chow, an artist residing in LA, creates large drawings of domesticated settings set through the window pane of a house or a structure. These classical drawings are so precise and so soft that one must take a moment to truly become aware if they are drawings, photographs or digital depictions.

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S. Nicole Lane / Comments (0)

Theatre Fri Jul 11 2014

About Face Youth Debut Checking Boxes

CheckingBoxes.jpgThe Chicago Park District's "Night Out in the Parks" initiative has created opportunities for Chicagoans to experience theatre in outdoor spaces, but also for young Chicagoans to showcase their talents. Checking Boxes, an original production by Shannon Matesky in collaboration with the About Faces Youth Theatre Ensemble, is no exception.

The original play takes a deeper look into the all-American dream through the eyes of LGBTQIA immigrant youth. From coming out to growing up in a society where everyone is striving for the perfect job and the ideal white-picket fence, the characters show how their journeys don't follow a stereotypical path. "Checking Boxes" is based on real-life experiences of the ensemble as well as members of the LGBTQIA community.

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Megan Daley / Comments (0)

Theatre Fri Jul 11 2014

Kokandy's Assassins Takes a Walk on the Darker Side

Assassins.jpgMost theater productions romanticize a fictional hero, exemplifying what it means to be a character fighting for something they believe in, finding their destined path or even leading a revolution. Dorothy finding her way home in Wizard of Oz. Harold Hill becoming the town hero in The Music Man. Tracy Turnbald taking a stand against racism in Hairspray. Rarely do we root for the villain. But Kokandy Productions revival of Sondheim's Assassins demonstrates why we should at least listen to them.

Assassins, originally produced in the early '90s, takes audiences inside the maniacal minds of well-known assassins (and several wannabes.) Real-life villains such as John Wilkes Booth (Eric Lindahl), Lee Harvey Oswald (Nathan Gardner) and Charles Guiteau (Greg Foster) use a carnival as the backdrop to tell the story of how they reached their breaking point. For some, it was out of their own despair and self-loathing, wanting to make a mark of their own on history. For others, it was about making a greater statement. But these people, while misguided, have their own stories to tell, making the overall theme of Assassins even more relevant today.

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Megan Daley / Comments (2)

Column Fri Jul 11 2014

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, The Galopagos Affair & 70mm Film Festival

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Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

In order for me to take a good hard look at the best and worst in human behavior, I had to see a "lesser" species turn our guns on us in a movie. And no, that's not any kind of crack about gun control; it's just what happens in the movie, and the impact is gut wrenching. Imagine if the man-apes from the opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey went from pounding each other on the heads with bones to picking up machine guns and mowing each other down to establish dominance, and you may have some idea of the impact of seeing the spiritually compromised ape Koba (motion-capture acted by the brilliant Toby Kebbell) riding horseback through a run-down, overgrown San Francisco with machine guns blazing in each hand. You'll probably laugh a little before you shudder.

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is set 10 years after two simultaneous events occurred (as shown in Rise of the Planet of the Apes): some kind of man-made simian flu was released, killing off nearly all human life on Earth (through the bug and the resulting societal violence); and a drug designed to repair brain cells and increase intelligence was set loose into the ape population, resulting in the world's first talking ape, named Caesar (once again played with a combination of deep thought and unfiltered rage by Andy Serkis), who has since become the ape world's natural leader. It's a little unclear how far-reaching this smart-ape phenomenon has spread, but when the few remaining humans in San Francisco first come in contact with Caesar's tribe, they are shocked to hear them speak, let alone reason and organize. For all we know, Caesar's group is the only of its kind; I suspect in the sequel to this film, we'll find out for sure. But I digress...

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Column Thu Jul 03 2014

Tammy, Life Itself, Deliver Us From Evil, Snowpiercer, Earth to Echo, Begin Again, A Hard Day's Night & Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia

Steve-at-the-Movies-300.jpg

Tammy


Not that this should influence your like or dislike of Tammy, the new film starring and co-written (with her director husband, Ben Falcone) by Melissa McCarthy, but this was supposed be McCarthy at her most pure and unfiltered — a raw, R-rated, take-no-prisoners variation of the McCarthy personality (Bridesmaids, The Heat, Identity Thief), birthed in improv performances in New York and Los Angeles, and put up on the screen like the perfect trophy head mounted on a hunter's wall. This was supposed to be the best that she's got. Oh boy...

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Steve Prokopy / Comments (0)

Review Wed Jul 02 2014

Eat Your Heart Out: Something to Chew On

There are fine performances in Rivendell Theatre Ensemble's Eat Your Heart Out, directed by Hallie Gordon; more than a few are heartfelt, from a cast giving their gut-load of emotion, and grinding down the observer's derision into an empathy stew for her characters. Going forward, I'll try to keep the food analogies to a minimum, but bear me one more: there is much too much being served at playwright Courtney Baron's banquet.

Eat Your Heart Out - Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
Andrew Goetten (Colin) and Anne Joy (Evie) Photo by Joe Mazza.

Eat Your Heart Out is a one-act play that has three full acts in full swing production, and works well until about three-quarters in, when it runs out of steam, veering from quietly compelling character study successfully intertwining the life events of six people in the tradition of Robert Altman to taking shelter in Marshall Zwick's "thirtysomething" self-righteous cul de sac. Even the background music selected for the closing scene seems chosen from the post-Crash of '87 sincerity bin at Benetton. But, that first three-quarters of the play is certainly something to chew on.

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Alice Singleton / Comments (0)

Feature Mon Jun 09 2014

I Grew Up in a Big Ol' Gay Disco: an Interview with Oli Rodriguez

By H. Melt

Oli Rodriguez is an interdisciplinary artist working in film, photography, and performance. H. Melt sat down with him to find out more about his relationship to Chicago, the city's queer history, and how it impacts his artmaking.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jul 25 2014

Hercules, Lucy, A Most Wanted Man, I Origins, And So It Goes, Happy Christmas, Magic in the Moonlight, Under the Electric Sky & Closed Curtain

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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Events

Tue Jul 29 2014
The Moth StorySLAM @ Martyrs'

Tue Jul 29 2014
Physical Festival @ Links Hall

Tue Jul 29 2014
This is Spinal Tap @ Millennium Park

Wed Jul 30 2014
Physical Festival @ Links Hall

Wed Jul 30 2014
WBEZ presents After Water @ Mayne Stage

Thu Jul 31 2014
Physical Festival @ Links Hall

Thu Jul 31 2014
School of Rock Allstars @ Beat Kitchen

Fri Aug 1 2014
Physical Festival @ Links Hall

Sat Aug 2 2014
You're Being Ridiculous @ Mary's Attic

Sat Aug 2 2014
Physical Festival @ Links Hall

Sun Aug 3 2014
Great Midwest Uke Fest @ Chief O'Neill's

Sun Aug 3 2014
American Graffiti & Car Show @ Portage Theater

Mon Aug 4 2014
Impress These Apes @ ComedySportz


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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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Editor: LaShawn Williams, ldw@gapersblock.com
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