THEATER REVIEW | “Batman Live”: The Dark Knight meets Cirque du Soleil

Batman Live opened at the Xcel Energy Center Thursday night. It’s one part Batman: The Animated Series, one part Grant Morrison a la Batman & Son, two parts Dick Tracy, and a hefty spoonful of Cirque du Soleil. It was less a Batman story than a Robin one, which has the potential to be groan-worthy unless you’re going to tell Robin’s story right; and Batman Live did. Plus, if the show is going to primarily feature Gotham’s finest acrobats, I guess the Flying Graysons are sort of unavoidable.

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BOOK REVIEWS | “Batmobile: The Complete History” and “The Dark Knight Manual” for the Batnerd

In time for the release of Dark Knight Rises, Insight Editions has come out with two Batman-related tomes to satiate the hungry Batnerd’s appetite for detail. Batmobile: The Complete History and The Dark Knight Manual function very differently, and it’s a matter of breadth versus depth. The former digs through the archives to access the long history of Batman’s sweet ride, and the latter opens up the secrets, case files, and technological wonders hidden in the Batcave.Batmobile started out as a sincerely fascinating exploration of the earliest years of the Batmobile, from the early 1940s red convertible that definitely couldn’t crush a series of cars in front of it, to the angular stylized beauty in which Adam West tootled around in the 60s. But its exploration of the Batman canon takes an abrupt halt there, focusing only on the films from then on out. There are some fascinating and self-referential renderings of the Batmobile in the DC comics in the 80s and beyond, but aside from two or three images and short captions, a discussion of them is completely evaded. Continue Reading

MUSIC | Okkervil River, Titus Andronicus, and Future Islands at First Avenue: A dream come true

If there has ever been a performer happier to be on the First Avenue stage than Will Sheff, I’ll eat my press pass. Psych! I have no actual press pass, and you won’t find a lead singer more excited to be on the main stage than Okkervil River’s. Sunday’s performance by the Austin-based band sticks out as my surprising and yet undeniable favorite of the past year. Opening for Okkervil River were Post-Wave Baltimore natives Future Islands and indie punk critics’ favorites Titus Andronicus.

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THEATER | “Goats” by the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company: A whack in the back of the head with the metaphor broom

The narrator of Alan Berks’s one-man show Goats, presented by the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company at Hillcrest Center Theater, is invited to visit a local rabbi while on a backpacking trip to Jerusalem. He laughingly attributes this honor to the “general all-around profundity” he believed he had as a self-indulged twenty-something. We sense the irony: he was not, in fact, particularly profound. And yet it seems that “general all-around profundity” is exactly what Berks was going for with Goats. It is a humorous and touching story of one young man’s spiritual journey in Jerusalem (and with a hundred or so of Jerusalem’s goats), although at times it hangs heavy with metaphors and philosophical aphorisms.

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Exit, pursued by infamy: The rise and decline of a ShakesBear

I sat on a stool next to Growly McFurryPaws at the bar nearest his home. He frequents the bar, he said, because his depression has become too much to handle. “I just can’t win, you know? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know most bears have it rough. We look super scary, and can’t really help our baser instincts. Is it our fault that people are stupid enough to throw rocks at us in national parks, and then act all surprised when we chew on them a bit?” He took a sip from his double whiskey. “But I think it’s particularly difficult being the only bear in the complete works of Shakespeare. There’s a special sort of stress that accompanies that kind of fame.” He laughed, a hollow emotionless laugh, and corrected himself. “I mean to say, infamy.” Continue Reading

MOVIES | “Gnomeo and Juliet” puts a twist on tradition

On our way to Gnomeo and Juliet, my friend Caitlin and I were fist-pumping to Journey. That’s how excited we were to see an animated retelling of one of our most beloved stories. Both of us are Ph.D. students in early modern British literature, and we debated whether this fact would make us biased for or against Gnomeo and Juliet, an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet starring—you guessed it—garden gnomes. As it turns out, our graduate education had little to no bearing on our opinion of the film. We both loved it for what it was: an adorable 3D CGI animated movie that tells a timeless love story.Gnomeo and Juliet is only the second animated film released by Touchstone Pictures, and Touchstone’s first G-rated film ever. Continue Reading

MUSIC | Lissie at the Cedar Cultural Center: A small body for so much rock

“I know it’s sort of stupid to talk about, but I’m excited!” Lissie was referring to her faux leather leggings, which, she pointed out between songs, had been in her closet for over two years. She brought them on her tour and promised herself she’d wear them at least once. “I decided tonight was the night!” She said, as cheers and shouts of “You look gorgeous!” erupted from the audience.

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