Staff Picks – 1/21/2016


WWE Royal Rumble

Joe Burrows

To the uninitiated, WWE matches seem like a sorry excuse for “sport” designed to entertain gullible idiots. However, anyone who has watched more than half of an episode of Monday Night RAW knows that World Wrestling Entertainment produces an engaging and interesting spectacle, with long and captivating storylines. On January 26, the 29th edition of the Royal Rumble will take place on Pay-Per-View. This PPV event will have all five major WWE titles up for contention, with the main event being a 30-man Royal Rumble event, where the winner will take the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Bouts for the Intercontinental, United States, Divas and Tag Team Championships make up the rest of the card. In what promises to be an exciting and star-studded night, Vince McMahon, owner of World Wrestling Entertainment, has certainly set himself up for success.




By Colin Loberg

Spike Lee’s “Chi-raq” is an adaptation of the Greek play “Lysistrata,” the Athenean comedy in which Greek women end the Peloponnesian War by refusing sex to their husbands. Lee transposes the setting to a present-day south Chicago. Already controversial among Chicagoans due to its title, the film faced additional criticism leading up to its release for the director’s use of a city marred by years of tragic bloodshed as the backdrop for a farce. Any notion that “Chi-Raq” is set in the real world is dismissed as soon as the cast begins speaking in the script’s rhyming structure.
While other directors may strive to create a timeless film on race in America, Lee has no such qualms. The script is unsubtle about its place; references to Tamir Rice, Ferguson and Ben Carson make it clear that this is a time capsule of late summer 2015. Not all of the humor in the film works and Lee sometimes over-applies himself where a more deft touch could’ve worked, but “Chi-Raq” is still a gorgeous and at times startling work. The film doesn’t attempt to posit realistic solutions to gang warfare, and that is not “Chi-Raq’s” fault. Lee wants his work to serve as a two hour echo of its opening title card. “This is a state of emergency.”


The Revenant

By Kaleb Wolf

“The Revenant” is a standard revenge flick that is shot to look like a dream. It was filmed primarily in Canada unde inhospitable conditions where Leonardo DiCaprio and the entire crew risked hypothermia. They waited for the right moment each day for the right sunlight for their impressive landscape shots, and the film contrasts these shots with its visceral violence. While being one of the most beautiful movies I’ve seen, I’ve also never winced more during a movie. The action sequences are sprawling, one-shot battles that remind me a lot of Inarritu’s previous movie, “Birdman.” Despite being ridiculously gruesome and almost three hours long, “The Revenant” doesn’t drags. DiCaprio’s performance, despite only delivering about 20 lines, was amazing. It’s hard to believe he can grunt and moan into a camera for three hours and probably be the best contender for an Oscar this year.


Indiepop Shop Talk Vol. 1 – by Various Artists

Danny Lindsay

This compilation, available on Bandcamp for streaming and download, features a large variety of underground pop artists. These artists aren’t exactly household names- most of them have Facebook pages numbering in the lower hundreds of likes. But all of them display a great deal of potential. The songs range from lo-fi synth pop to reverby, chilled-out rock in the vein of Wild Nothing or Beach Fossils. Standouts include “Toronto Song” by Anthony Rochester, a downtempo track with hushed vocals and delicate instrumentation, and “Today It Is Even Better” by The Very Most, a melodic bit of synth pop. The catchy and unabrasive nature of the songs may turn off some listeners who require a bit more edge to their music, but for those who enjoy more accessible fare, this compilation has a lot to like.



City on Fire – Garth Risk Hallberg

Sam Fuller

Garth Risk Hallberg’s debut novel “City on Fire” received ample praise in 2015 year-end lists, and for good reason. For readers who neglected to purchase every hot new book last year, this is a 900-page project well worth the reading time. Hallberg brings New York City in the late 1970s to life through the eyes of an ensemble cast that includes wealthy financiers, young punk rockers, washed-up journalists and the overworked NYPD. Though the inclusion of fictional letters and documents written in their “original” cursive echoes publishing gimmicks best left in the 90s, Hallberg’s insights into the inner lives of a disparate collection of New Yorkers make the book an especially worthwhile read.