Mulaney Review.

A feeble attempt to bring back the popularity of ‘50s sketch comedy and ‘90s multi-camera ensemble, Fox’s new series Mulaney is a 22-minute has-been that is experiencing its 15 minutes of fame.

Packed with timely laugh tracks and cheesy sound tracks that scream, “I want to be the next ‘Seinfeld,’ this highly ambitious addition to the lineup of Fox’s quirk squad is two nuts short of funny.

The birth child of Emmy Award-winning writer and comedian John Mulaney—one would expect to gasp for air with uncontrollable laughter as we once did during his years writing for “Saturday Night Live.” Instead, we are left with a dry taste in our mouths wondering how this script received the seal of approval.

First off, the cast is far from comedy genius. The only saving grace is Mulaney’s presence and Elliott Gould’s effortless act as the gay New York veteran who makes an appearance every once in a while throughout the show.

Mulaney chronicles the life of John Mulaney as a struggling comedian in New York. Great, we haven’t seen this before. Though what I struggle to understand is how he and Motif—his equally struggling comedian friend—struck apartment gold in New York. Yes, it’s just television, but in a television era so heavily based on reality let’s go the extra mile and make this a bit more convincing?

The biggest issue we run into here is how a writer for one of the most popular shows on television can produce such mundane literature. Not once do you find yourself shedding a tear of laughter. More often, you find yourself pondering why the laugh track was strategically placed immediately after Lou Cannon—played by Martin Short, opens his first of many cups of chocolate pudding that rest atop his full-bar… a half hour later, and I still don’t understand why it’s so funny?

Let’s not forget to mention the tightly packed suitcase of stereotypes gone wrong. Thanks for the jive talk Motif! It’s not that Motif’s character couldn’t be convincing, rather the lingering question is whether or not newcomer Seaton Smith stumbled onto the wrong set?

Mulaney’s cluster of degenerate 30-something year old friends creates the quintessential mold of what society believes this generation to be. Throw the outrageously neurotic, man-hunting girl that just so happens to be a “friend,” Jane played by Nasim Pedrad in the mix and we’ve got ourselves a new idea! The awkward “this could potentially turn into a romantic relationship,” interactions aren’t fooling your audience Mulaney, and they shouldn’t fool you.

But wait; let us not forget the trust fund baby drug dealer Andre who literally appears out of thin air. Not only does his character not make sense when you line up these clean cut poor degenerates who live in a beautiful apartment in New York, but he’s just ridiculous from his look to his creepy advances towards Jane. The pilot character who just doesn’t make the cut, Zack Pearlman should just agree that landing on any show on Fox is a win in this situation.

A first attempt at a comedy series by a well-known SNL writer, Mulaney falls short of the expectations of John Mulaney fans. Not only is this a disappointment, but I am afraid to see what crazy antics these kids get themselves into next.


 

Black Bear/ Brown Bear Album Release.

What Black Bear/Brown Bear does better than everyone else could arguably be what plants them front and center in the race for Chicago’s next not-so-famous garage band. No more than a year after reinventing their image, blowing our minds with not one, but two drummers, and choosing a name worthy of some Northwest Side Chicago street cred, Black Bear/Brown Bear has cuddled up to our yearning auricles with beats that will make you feel as though you were just born out of an hour long jazzercise class.

Mixing two incredibly unique yet polar opposite voices on a ten track LP, Black Bear/Brown Bear is proving to this industry that their asses are planted right under this tree of indie-rock ear candy and the ain’t goin’ no where.

Don’t expect these guys to commence this ride with a slow jam. No, just as their individual personalities warrant anyone in their path to overflow with awkwardly giddy excitement, so will this newest edition to their family.

Appropriately titled Good Luck, anyone jamming out will feel a connection to each member of the band, whether you hear their voices on the track or not. Forget a Parental Advisory label, these guys need to plaster a Too Much Fun Advisory on their tickets, tracks, and foreheads warning listeners of what they are getting themselves into!

 What’s the point of waiting if the hard work ain’t worth the reward. The words on Muscles leave you in a space jam (get it?). Wondering,” what the hell am I feeling right now? I don’t care, because I like it!” Whether or not these lyrics are close to home, they feel like an indication of each member’s personal journey with the band. Hard work, rewards, and wishes of good luck seem to be the tags that define this album as you drift in and out of these high and low tempo tunes.

If you’re looking for an unambiguous culprit of melodious amusement look no further. Good Luck, makes you feel as though you just got laid sashaying off a Boeing 737 as the sun smacks you around a bit with it’s comfortably lukewarm arms. Warning—the corners of your mouth will be locked in the upright position until this trip is over due to the overwhelming amount of fun penetrated into this 35:30 long album.

With infusions of African psychedelic soul, chaotically organized strings, and hard rock Spanish líricos you are left to create your own interpretation of what genre Good Luck actually fits into. But, fret not—similar to the abstractions of a Bob Dylan ballad, these emotions are welcomed with loving arms as these Midwest hunks serenade you through a hip-shaking journey.


 

Laggies Review.

A shift from predictable flicks packed with spontaneity and ridge cinematography, Lynn Shelton has found herself at the cool kid’s table with a box office love story, sans vampires.

A multimillion-dollar movie with a hint of Shelton’s familiar low budget flair, Laggies is this year’s depressingly modern spin on the cliché coming of age tale.

Cue the effortlessly floating Megan, played by Keira Knightly—a late twenties screw up trying too hard to find her place in a post-graduate’s hell on earth. Shackled to the prim and proper streets of her suburban Seattle confides, Megan maintains a disturbingly convincing teenage façade trapped in an overly prepubescent nearly thirty-year-old body.

Not quite ready to face reality, Megan stays trapped in a stagnant relationship with high school sweetheart Anthony (Mark Webber). She can’t quite put her finger on whether or not she’s surpassed the high school butterflies or if she is afraid to explore a life outside of her distorted reality neglect of change.

Megan has found herself stuck in a rut, still BFFs with her high school crew—at the hand of Anthony, and babied by her cheating father (Jeff Garlin). Attending her best friend’s (Bridesmaid’s Ellie Kemper) wedding as the slacker maid of honor, Megan gets slapped in the face with a overwhelming amount of back to back revelations that force her to flee the scene and shack up with a new friend half her age, Annika (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her puppy like single father, Craig (Sam Rockwell) who is looking for love in all the wrong places.

Megan meets Annika and her equally tortured friends in the parking lot of the local grocery store, escaping her past and embarking on a reality that might be a bit too heavy for a whopping 100 minutes and a box of Snowcaps.

As she slowly becomes the cool, older friend slash creepy thirty year old searching for salvation as her new friend’s future stepmother, Megan creates a painfully awkward journey for herself that results in nothing shy of the predictable romcom ending (a bit too reminiscent of a late-90s Drew Barrymore movie).

Maybe Shelton’s knack for improvisation could have been a saving grace for a cast full of dollar signs and a subpar script too predictable and generic for anyone looking for something remotely stimulating. Regardless, Knightley’s performance was short of her obvious talents—save her teenage years as the awkwardly tomboyish Juliette in Bend it Like Beckham. If this is what Shelton is pitching as a “different” Knightley performance, save it Shelton. You could have saved millions on an unwarranted trek through Hollywood’s elite.


The Face Behind the Signs.

There’s an unintentional curiosity when walking through the doors of the neighborhood grocer. Questions thought to be irrelevant asking, “ why red?”

The daunting final decision to submit a final paper in Times New Roman after an hour long battle between Calibri and Cambria is a struggle South Water Signs’ Project Manager, Frank Lambert faces everyday.

Forget that tedious 12-pt font that takes up less than a quarter of an 8×11 sheet of paper, Frank just finished hauling the 20 pound face of an O from atop his Nissan Cube that he spent the past three weeks mauling over.

Frank has spent the better half of the last four years battling with city ordinances that continue to prevent him from obtaining a permit for his latest attempt to help bring an identity to companies across the Chicago area.

People really want their signs up—your sign is your identification.

A process heavily focused on marketing and development, Frank’s sleepless nights help new and old companies achieve their desired end result. Spending his days working from concept to completion on projects from your neighborhood nail salon to the newly renovated Children’s Hospital right off Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, it is no wonder why Frank can’t help but to critique every illuminated sign that he passes as he rolls down the hipster highway.

Currently working on more than twenty projects—all with an ambitiously anticipated end of year completion date, Frank’s workload does not allow for the consistent creativity that he craves nor is capable of.

To be honest, I’d really rather not be creative right now. I’m too busy; I’ve got too much going on.

Extremely modest and unaware of the unique talent he possesses, Frank doesn’t realize he is using his creative energy everyday. When given the task to transform a premature .jpeg for a now closed Paradise Cantina, into a 10-foot beer goggle catcher in one of the booziest spots in the city, Frank was happy to accept.

I always try to make something look like it wasn’t there. 

A bit of an arrogant, yet ironically tasteful chuckle leaves his mouth as he remembers that daunting day. What might seem like a small feat—transforming a 12-pt, Comic Sans image sent by a demanding and hopelessly ignorant client into an alluring image of paradise and fiestas—turned into a eight week stint of pantone matching and heated arguments attempting to explain why it is not possible to have a 500 pound sign dangling off the edge of the building. Who knew?

People take it for granted. Colors are the hardest part because people are color sensitive.

With a background in architecture, Frank is better able to take concepts sent to him as that premature .jpeg and apply them to much larger surfaces—something many people in this industry are not equipped to do.

Late night adventures in the city to avoid curious people and pesky property owners, Frank frantically searches for the new project he is expected to drum up in the next ten days. The problem? This fast turnkey might not be achievable because the address provided by the client doesn’t exist. Go figure.

In high pressure moments such as this, when Frank is working on a number of other demanding projects, arguing with the difficult Alderman who owns everything .1 centimeters above the sidewalk, and trying to match the distinguishable red of a 7 Eleven sign exactly with the other over 40,000 locations in the United States, why not throw a phantom company into the mix?

You need tangible measurements, photos of locations to show clients how the end product will look. 

As the technical and creative mind behind South Water Signs, Frank has a big weight on his shoulders. An internal and external struggle to ensure that what he creates is perfect not only for the satisfaction of the clients and his boss, Tom Merkel, but for his personal satisfaction as well.

I love the large projects. From the creative process, to the architectural process—It’s because it allows me to learn. I need to be challenged.

There is an instant glow on his face when talking about those hefty projects. He wears his heart on his sleeve for South Water Signs, and it is not an emotion that Tom takes lightly.

He’s like a son to me. I’ve known him for a long time. He’s a very hard worker, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.

Originally working towards a career in construction or facility management, Frank fell into South Water Signs in what seems to be an organic and obvious way. While most are born into the industry, Frank took his previous talents and added something to the company that, when talking to Tom, he is unmistakably aware of. Though they might bicker like father and son, the talents that both minds bring to the company are what have made South Water Signs one of the leading sign companies in Chicago.

Our mentality is ‘Get it in the door and we will definitely figure it out.’

This mentality is what brings them satisfied customers and lasting relationships and it is no surprise that Chicago is a neighborhood on it’s own, built on word of mouth and who you know around town. As a guy from Detroit, Frank made it his priority to have his voice heard and respected, which is why he has set into place a 10-year plan. Number one on the list:

I see myself owning my own business in 10 years.

At the rate you’re going Frank, you might not have to wait that long.


 

“Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections” Review.

Like a processional stroll paying homage to the gods, “Heaven and Earth: Art of Byzantium from Greek Collections” is the Art Institute of Chicago’s 63-piece exhibition of unobtrusive beauty and unpretentious flare.

Packed within slithering walls of the Mary and Michael Jaharis galleries, “Heaven and Earth” highlights the materialistic and religious grandeur of the rise of the Byzantine Empire in eastern Rome—an era less spoken to in previous history classes.

Swept with sculptures and mosaics of devotional icons, jewels once believed to possess powers of protection, and scrolls encased in illuminated displays, it is no wonder why the decision was made to focus “Heaven and Earth” on the evolution of eastern Rome rather than the decline of the Western Roman Empire.

Though familiarity with the history of Byzantine Christianity is not required to explore this exhibition, it is important to understand the transition from polytheistic belief to an Orthodox faith. A strategic focus on the chronology of events, the exhibit begins with the rise of Byzantine Christianity and closes with the beginning of Greek polytheistic religion—a faith focused heavily on worship of multiple gods.

There is an uncanny beauty in the pain of each image presented. On the surface the observer is graced with vibrant colors, and crystal clear images on preserved blocks of wood as the caption to the right speaks of “foreshadows of emotions upon crucifixion.”

As the journey continues, fragments of wall paintings, broken but full of life introduce on-lookers to an exhibit that like Byzantine Christianity, builds itself from the ground up with a central focus—superior icons strategically placed at the heart of the exhibit.

The Fall of Constantinople by Capella Romana whispers into fragile ears as images of the “Virgin and Child” crafted from tempera, gold, and silver disappear and the exhibit cuts left to a dimly lit room of devotional icons placed at the center of it all. Oh, the irony.

No longer graced with the expressive yet somber eyes of a Virgin Mary and “child,” there is a brightness that illuminates in these new corners. Statues are dimly lit for conservation as fragments of the gallery shine bright with secular works of art for the home.

Displays glisten with jewels that allowed for the insertion of magical texts meant to protect those wearing it—a true dichotomy between the once polytheistic faith and Byzantine Christianity.

The grandeur of daily life in Byzantium is showcased with such elegance and respect, and after taking the final steps through “Heaven and Earth,” it is no doubt that the inhabitants of Byzantium basked in luxury, beauty, and richly crafted possessions.

As the exhibition coms to a close, Dionysis, god of wine, fertility, festivity, and lover of peace appears with an irony too complex to interpret. Whether this is a foreshadow of the struggles of religion in eastern and western Rome or a remembrance of Greek religious beginnings, overall “Heaven and Earth,” accomplishes its intent to highlight an empire unfamiliar to American culture.


Dead Accounts Review.

If you’re looking for 90 minutes of awkward east coast, midwest rivalry, look no further. Dead Accounts is a forgettable introduction to the trite dichotomy between east coast greed and midwest naiveté.

A household idea executed a bit haphazardly, Theresa Rebeck attempts the story of every midwest dreamers escape to the Big Apple, their struggle to find an identity, and the journey back home after they discover that they are just “too nice” for those east coast piranhas.

The difference between Rebeck’s play and all other tales of the midwest dreamer is that the main character Jack’s (Steve O’Connell) journey involves $27 million stolen in dead accounts that Jack is convinced he’s entitled to for his years of serving as the poor naïve Midwestern.

Coupled with this dirty money is an obscene amount of unbearably symbolic Garter’s ice cream and chili dogs from Skyline—both set in place to ensure that the audience is aware that this play is set in Cincinnati, Ohio—the midest of the Midwest.

Jack travels back to Ohio on a surprise, somewhat forced visit home only to cause an immense amount of strife for everyone he comes in contact with. The first to enjoy this suspiciously high-strung visit is his sister Lorna, played by Emily Tate.

Lorna’s shock and disbelief to see Jack after seven years is the first of many mysteries to unfold in this slowly underdeveloped story of greed, religion and love.

The uneasiness warranted with each laugh is what makes it so difficult to feel the empathy one should expect to have for each character, and maintain throughout the duration of a play with such a deep premise.

Whether it is overacting or erratic writing from Rebeck, the initial introduction to Jack is intensely overwhelming—overly passionate and hectic for someone who just arrived after a long day of spontaneous traveling.

As the plot thickens, we still aren’t sure if Jack is on drugs, or if O’Connell is REALLY trying to get into character.

While it is entirely too apparent that Jack no longer cares for New York—a place he’d dreamt of in his youth while childhood friend Phil, played by Bradford Lund, remained content with his Midwest simplicities—it is not quite clear why from his long soliloquies and offbeat tangents.

Is it because of his sticky divorce with wife estranged Jenny (Elizabeth Antonucci)— old money, and the epitome of east coast snobbery, or is it because he is running away from his new New York self? Has Jack become what he now loathes—the dichotomy between east coast greed and midwest naiveté?

As he struggles to tell his dying father (who we never see) that he is home with millions of dollars in dirty money and a sticky ongoing divorce, the audience begins to see Jack’s family unravel with him.

His need to provide them with smothering “comfort foods” in bulk, alcohol, and mysterious drugs that are a suspect by nature to feel better about himself are not fooling his audience, and they don’t seem to fool him either.

Jack seems to be a setup for the symbol of American greed and the battle with consciousness, a complex idea that could have been developed into a much deeper character. Instead, what the audience really sees is a neurotic criminal who has selfishly brought his naively religious mother Barbara (Millie Hurley), dying father, soul-searching sister, and lovable friend into a crime too extreme to get out of.

While his mother holds onto the smallest bit of faith she still has in God and church to bring her family back to salvation, Jack’s sister seems to be the only realistic, yet annoyingly shrill character in the family—alongside Phil, the epitome of the midwest sweetheart—her randomly placed new love interest who is far too timid for her wondering mind.

As the play comes to a close, Lorna recites the only words that become a saving grace for the empathy that the audience should have had at the start of the play.

Money and religion are just the dumb things people use to fill the voids in their hearts—eventually we are all gonna die. 


 

Pigtail Chic on the High Fashion Playgrounds.

Paris Fashion Week knew what they started by introducing the world to 2016’s newest spring and summer trend. From the runway to the playground, pigtails have made a splash as the go to for your everyday do.

Who doesn’t want to channel their inner schoolgirl with a look that says “hey, I’ve got no worries… jealous?”

Hairstylists sent models down the runway with long locks bouncing freely atop strutting shoulders. From Chanel to Miu Miu, these trendsetting designers showed us how to style our pigtails with flirty free flowing braids or two slick ponytails that say, “I mean business.”

This look can be accessorized with a statement headband or barrette that will make the voyeur want to cop your style. I don’t know about you, but who wouldn’t want to be the Instagram hairspiration of Summer Sixteen?


A Bit of Bold, and a lot of Sassy.

Who said the ‘90s fashion takeover was coming to an end? This year, RiRi, T-Sway, and King Kylie have all proven that dark lips are the essential finishing touch to your day to night look.

Don’t be nervous about a bold lip to complement your personal style. From oxblood reds, pinks, and orange to matte and velvety textures, this trend is for absolutely everyone.

So, get to work because you have a bank of options to choose from and no time to waste!


Short hair, don’t care. Top Styles of 2016.

If you’re looking for a bold transformation, look no further. This year is all about shedding the dead weight, and inventing a new you.

If you’re a bit nervous about taking the plunge, don’t fret, Julianne Hough, Khloe Kardashian, and Taylor Swift have all told us it’s okay to do you.

If you’re going for the shoulder grazing bob, make it wavy for a beachy effortless look that is minimal to no fuse. For a night out on the town, make your new look the center of attention with a sleek slicked back style that will definitely turn heads.

Don’t be afraid to experiment. You’ve made it this far!


Clean Eating, So Hot Right Now.

Who would have imagined the next hot trend: health? Today’s generation is all about “clean eating,” and there’s absolutely nothing to complain about there. In a world obsessed with fast food, vegging out, and freaky fast delivery, one would expect society to give into the peer pressure and continue super sizing it, doing remote curls, and popping diet pills as an afternoon snack.

Forget the arbitrary “diet plans” that were once the only way people knew how to shed those winter pounds. Consumers and retailers are now becoming savvy to the fluff and going back to basics for nutritional needs.

“Clean eating” is nothing new, rather it is a way of living that was always there and sadly ignored.

Because of this new generation’s mainstream take on it, green drinks, kale, and trendy gyms are now everywhere.

Look, if it takes a trend to bring us back to cleansing and balancing our mind and body then again I say, there are no complaints here.

Now, we are more mindful and cautious of over processed foods, “natural” ingredients, and GMO.

Popular meal delivery companies such as Green Chef, Plated, and Hello Fresh provide a “meal in a box” that includes fresh vegetables, meats, and spices to make healthy cooking easily accessible.

I don’t know about you, but if there is a trend to follow this year, healthy living is definitely the bandwagon to jump on. Hopefully like Birkenstocks, this trend will cease to fade.

 

 

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