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Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Rogers Park gets a new record store

Posted By on 08.08.18 at 08:00 AM

At first glance, you might not realize that Electric Jungle is a record store. - LEOR GALIL
  • Leor Galil
  • At first glance, you might not realize that Electric Jungle is a record store.

You could be forgiven for mistaking Electric Jungle for a gardening shop at first glance. Potted plants fill the windows of the new Rogers Park record store at 1768 W. Greenleaf, which opened without fanfare during the last weekend of July. The storefront is largely unadorned, though there's a small green sign on the front door with the shop's name and business hours. It's open just a fraction of the week: 2-7 PM on Tuesday and Thursday, and noon-7 PM on Friday and Saturday.

Owner John Ciba, who ran Logan Square record store Logan Hardware till it closed in May, says he started working toward opening Electric Jungle this past winter. He stayed mum about the shop's existence till this summer, when he changed the handle on Logan Hardware's Instagram account to "electricjunglechicago." In the meantime he'd been selling some of Logan Hardware's former inventory at pop-ups in Logan Arcade and the Virgin Hotels, which helped him zero in on what he wanted to do with Electric Jungle. "We're trying to rephrase record retail," he says.

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Friday, March 23, 2018

Keep the Change provides an affectionate look at people with intellectual disabilities

Posted By on 03.23.18 at 12:46 PM

Brandon Polansky and Samantha Elisofon in Keep the Change
  • Brandon Polansky and Samantha Elisofon in Keep the Change
On one level, Keep the Change (which opens today at the Music Box) is a formulaic romantic comedy about a man and woman who meet cute, fall in and out of love, then rediscover their affection for each other. On another level, the film is a documentary-style portrait of what it’s like to be an adult with autism and learning disabilities—the principal characters are played by people who actually have these conditions, and writer-director Rachel Israel (expanding on a 2013 short of the same name) shows them engaging in activities they would likely pursue in their real lives. Much of the film takes place in continuing education classes and recreational clubs for people with intellectual disabilities; it also considers real-world challenges that such people face, like as maintaining friendships, interacting with strangers, and performing daily living skills. (The film’s title refers to the protagonist’s difficulty with counting money.) The familiar plot provides a structure for Israel’s observations and helps create familiarity with people that viewers might not encounter in their everyday lives.

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Everybody had a happy face at the Obama Library site debut

Posted By on 08.03.16 at 04:47 PM

The setting of the Obama Presidential Center site debut - DEANNA ISAACS
  • Deanna Isaacs
  • The setting of the Obama Presidential Center site debut

Everyone made nice at today’s formal announcement for Jackson Park as the location of the Obama presidential library.

Since the site selection leaked last week (and had already been widely reported) the event, held on a blistering-hot terrace on the south side of the Museum of Science and Industry, was billed as a "Press Conference to Discuss Site Selection for the Obama Presidential Center."

There wasn't much discussion—just a series of short speeches.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Not coming to the Disney Channel: Michel Gondry's Microbe & Gasoline

Posted By on 07.29.16 at 10:00 AM

Theophile Baquet, Ange Dargent in Microbe & Gasoline
  • Theophile Baquet, Ange Dargent in Microbe & Gasoline
No one in his right mind would accuse a filmmaker of having too much imagination, but French filmmaker Michel Gondry has so much that his flights of fancy can overwhelm his movies. When I think of Gondry, I often remember that dream sequence in The Science of Sleep (2006) in which Gael García Bernal gropes around with giant papier-mache hands—the director has an enormous hunger for ideas, but sometimes he can't pick anything up. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) is still his best film, because Charlie Kaufman's cerebral screenplay about a company that launders people's memories was also emotionally centered in a romantic love triangle. As a writer-director on Sleep and Be Kind Rewind (2008), Gondry had trouble summoning the kind of honest emotion needed to counterbalance his surreal visions. His best moment since Sunshine was probably a documentary, Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy? (2013), which pairs a Noam Chomsky interview with hand-drawn animation and touches unexpectedly and powerfully on the public intellectual's private grief over the death of his wife.

More recently Gondry has enlisted other people to help write his features, but Microbe & Gasoline, his third solo writing effort, is an unexpectedly rich story about two grade school pals hitting the road in a fantastical jerry-built automobile. It's the kind of thing you might see on the Disney Channel, except that it has way too much wit and irreverence and one of its young heroes likes to draw men and women copulating. Gondry has gotten his hands on a fine and slippery subject—the way boys on the cusp of adolescence reason about women and sex—and his portrayal of the heroes' Tom-and-Huck relationship rings true. For the first time in one of his own stories, the people don't take a backseat to the concepts.

"I like to make things with garbage," Gondry once told MTV, and both the timid, diminutive Microbe (Ange Dargent) and the cocksure Gasoline (Theophile Baquet) share a love of junk. They meet in the schoolyard when Gasoline, a new student, rolls in on his bicycle with an assortment of comedy sound-effect boxes mounted to the handlebars. Before long he and Microbe are prowling around the antique shop run by Gasoline's father and the scrapyards where Gasoline likes to pick up mechanical odds and ends. The car they construct is a classic Gondry, a contraption that grows more elaborate as they go along: they acquire a motor for a sit-down lawnmower, mount it to an iron bed frame, install a steering column, transmission, and a pair of seats, and mount a discarded car hood to the front and a section of a wooden dresser to the back. Eventually they decide to set off on a cross-country expedition and use discarded lumber to construct a little shed over the car, turning it into a little motor home. When they see police approaching, they pull off to the side of the road and lower a set of flaps they've installed to hide the wheels. I don't guess a contraption like this would actually run, but it's sure great to look at.

microbe_gasoline_2.jpg

Gondry has reached into himself for this dead-on portrayal of how prepubescent boys reason about love, women, and sex. When Microbe asks Gasoline if he's ever done it, his friend replies, "I gave up after a sad story. Too many emotional complications get in the way." Later in the film, when they're set off on their journey, they make a side trip so that Microbe can profess his love to a girl he knows. "It's a noble, beautiful kind of pain," he tells Gasoline. They both have complicated relationships with their mothers: Gasoline's mom, who suffers from obesity and has survived two heart attacks, lets him run wild, whereas Microbe is smothered by his adoring mom (Audrey Tautou). "[She] loves me too much," he tells Gasoline. "I feel sorry for her."

Gondry has taken a lovely snapshot of children at the age when they're first confronted with sexuality and recoil in fear, disguising it as disgust. When Microbe and his brother listen to their parents arguing in the next room, Microbe comments, "At least they're not screwing. The idea grosses me out." After finding the explicit drawings under Microbe's mattress, his mother assures him, "It's normal to masturbate at your age!" He clamps his hands over his ears and runs away. "I promise not to talk about your sexuality!" she calls after him. Gondry puts his finger on the girls as well as the boys. "They're all so immature," says one female student of her male classmates. But in the final shot of the movie, a girl who's hovered on the periphery of the action stares after Microbe as he walks away, wishing he would turn around and look at her. He will someday, and it'll be the same day he stops building motor homes out of junk.

Microbe & Gasoline opens Friday at Music Box Theatre.


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Friday, June 17, 2016

Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl joins Pilsen's booming record-store strip

Posted By on 06.17.16 at 11:00 AM

Say hello to the records at Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl. - SUNSHINE TUCKER
  • Sunshine Tucker
  • Say hello to the records at Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl.

This past weekend Pilsen welcomed its third record store in a year: Shady Rest Vintage & Vinyl, at 1659 S. Throop. Owners Nuntida Sirisombatwattana and Peter Kepha, a longtime couple, officially opened the shop Saturday. They're also longtime vinyl collectors, and knew the ins and outs of crate digging before they met. Prior to finding a permanent storefront, they'd sell their wares at record fairs—which increasingly exhausted them. "I would pretty much carry the entire store with us," Kepha says.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Batman v. Superman: An exclusive interview with billionaire Bruce Wayne

Posted By on 03.24.16 at 11:00 AM

Ben Affleck as billionaire Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Mr. Wayne declined to be photographed for this story.
  • Ben Affleck as billionaire Bruce Wayne in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Mr. Wayne declined to be photographed for this story.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, the first big blockbuster of 2016, opens this Easter weekend, and a giant, sustained promotional push seems to guarantee that it will clean up at the box office. Having successfully revived the Superman franchise with Man of Steel (2013), director Zack Snyder turns his attention to the more recent superhero conflict between Superman and Batman. I have a big problem with movies that fictionalize actual events, because inevitably things are distorted to make them more dramatic. So earlier this year, as ads for the movie began to appear, I decided to get the real story by landing an interview with billionaire investor Bruce Wayne, who rarely speaks to the press and whose long career as a nocturnal crime fighter is well documented on film.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

An ad man experiments with virtual reality, plus more new reviews and notable screenings

Posted By on 03.18.16 at 11:00 AM

Hello, My Name Is Doris
  • Hello, My Name Is Doris
Creative Control, opening this week at Music Box, tells the story of a New York advertising executive whose life begins to unravel after he agrees to test-drive a pair of "augmented reality" glasses his company is promoting. Also this week, we've got new reviews of: The Automatic Hate, a mystery set in motion when a man meets his long-lost (and gorgeous) cousin; The Bronze, a comedy starring Melissa Rauch (The Big Bang Theory) as a bitter ex-Olympian; The Cool World, Shirley Clarke's gritty 1964 drama about young thugs in Harlem; The Divergent Series: Allegiant, the third and (hooray) last installment in the young-adult SF franchise; Eye in the Sky, a timely chamber drama about U.S. and UK military conducting a drone strike; and Hello, My Name Is Doris, starring Sally Field as an old woman who falls in love with a young man in her office.

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Embrace of the Serpent slithers into town, plus more new reviews and notable screenings

Posted By on 03.11.16 at 07:00 AM

Embrace of the Serpent
  • Embrace of the Serpent
The movie to catch this weekend is Ciro Guerra's Colombian drama Embrace of the Serpent, the black-and-white tale of an Amazonian shaman whose encounter with a German doctor in 1909 comes back to haunt him 30 years later. It opens Friday at Music Box. We've also got reviews of: Knight of Cups, the latest from Terrence Malick (Days of Heaven), starring Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Natalie Portman, and Brian Dennehy; Requiem for the American Dream, billed as the "final long-form documentary interviews" of public intellectual Noam Chomsky; and Trapped, a documentary about so-called TRAP laws (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) enacted in Texas and Alabama.

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Friday, March 4, 2016

European Union Film Festival kicks off Friday, plus more new reviews and notable screenings

Posted By on 03.04.16 at 07:00 AM

Tale of Tales, screening as part of the European Union Film Festival
  • Tale of Tales, screening as part of the European Union Film Festival
The European Union Film Festival, always a highlight of the year's filmgoing calendar, opens Friday with Joost van Ginkel's The Paradise Suite, which Bill Stamets calls "a medley of interpersonal crises [that] widens into a moving vista of modern Europe." Check out our 16-film roundup of the festival, which runs all through March. Also this week, Fred Camper has the lowdown on the Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival, with four installations and nine shorts programs screening through the weekend at Defibrillator Gallery. And check out our new issue for capsule reviews of: London Has Fallen, an action flick about terrorists swinging England like a pendulum; The Wave, billed as the first Norwegian disaster flick; and Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, starring Tina Fey as an American journalist in Kabul. 

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Friday, February 26, 2016

The director of A Hijacking is back with A War, plus more new reviews and notable screenings

Posted By on 02.26.16 at 08:00 AM

A War
  • A War
Tobias Lindholm, director of the critically lauded Danish drama A Hijacking, returns with A War, which opens at Landmark's Century Centre on Friday and competes for an Oscar for best foreign film on Sunday. Our long review is here. We've also got capsule reviews of: Eddie the Eagle, an inspirational sports drama about the unlikely Olympian Eddie Edwards;  The Last Man on the Moon, a documentary profile of NASA astronaut Eugene Cernan; Magical Girl, a Spanish noir about a man who'll do anything to obtain an expensive dress for his terminally ill daughter; Triple 9, an underworld thriller from the director of The Proposition; and The Vanished Elephant, a metafictional romp about a crime novelist pulled into a real-life mystery.

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