MOVIE REVIEW | “A Coffee in Berlin” offers known comforts

Despite the growth of café culture across the United States, we are often reminded by our movie heroes that a basic black coffee )“a damn fine cup of coffee”) offers distinct pleasures. A Coffee in Berlin, the debut feature from German director Jan Ole Gerster, concerns a young man’s search for that very thing.Nico (Tom Schilling) is a law school drop out who has broken up with his girlfriend and moved into a new apartment. He’s unemployed and begins the first day of the rest of his life by going out for coffee at a nearby café. His simple desire is thwarted by the lack of cash in his pocket and the uselessness of his debit card. This sets off an absurd journey that is equal parts Ulysses, Slacker and Italian Neo-Realism with a dash of Woody Allen thrown in for taste. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | Gadfly Theatre Productions’ Final Frontier Festival explores LGBT topics through sci-fi lens

Gadfly Theatre Productions is a local theater company whose mission is to “build a playground for the obscure, the oppressed and  unapologetically original.” Since 2010, they have been producing plays from a queer/feminist perspective in order to fulfill this goal. They’ve staged classic plays, original work, and from June 13rd to June 21st, they are staging their first themed festival, Final Frontier Festival, which presents six one-act plays across two evenings at Nimbus Theatre in Minneapolis. The tone and topics of the plays are quite varied and diverse. Who Killed Captian Kirk? by Paco Madden concerns the events at Star Trek convention that precedes and follows the murder of a well-known celebrity. The Wolves Above by Alyssa Zaczek offers a post-apocalyptic scenario between a fembot named Venus and her creators. Love Bot by Matthew A. Everett is somewhat similar; in this show one gay and one lesbian astronaut are faced with the uncomfortable task of becoming a second Adam and Eve. Continue Reading

“Transformers: Age of Extinction” co-stars stress human story

Summer blockbuster season is well underway. This is the annual time when theaters are bursting with all kinds of explosions, visual effects and onscreen mayhem. For quite awhile, flashy and noisy movies have claimed the summer months as their own. Likewise for more than a decade Michael Bay has been the god who rules over the summer box office, both in budget and style. Transformers: Age of Extinction is the latest entry in his filmography and looks to carry his reign onwards.The Transformers movies had a pretty rough start, with the first film being mocked by fans and critics alike. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Girl Germs is infectious at First Avenue

Freelance writers Sally Hedberg and Dana Raidt started Girl Germs after “Stevie Nicks came to them in a dream.” The message delivered by the liminal Nicks was that they should do more to promote the presence and history of women in rock music. Shortly afterwards, they began the website girlgerms.com and organized the First Annual Girl Germs concert at First Ave on Friday May 30, 2014. The idea for the show was that local artists, not necessarily all women or women-fronted, would pick and pay tribute to notable female artists in rock history. Because of this, the show had a very eclectic selection of musical styles and moods. CRYSTAL, a new band that boasts two members of noise rock masters Brute Heart, kicked things off by playing a few of Sade’s hit songs. Rather than staying too loyal to the original, they broadened the songs just a bit to make it closer to their own style. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Mogwai bring bright light to First Avenue

On Sunday, May 18, the post-rock instrumental band Mogwai brought their “Rave Tapes” tour to First Avenue mainroom. Not quite sold-out, the show still brought in a sizable crowd. Enough people to make the space look full, but still plenty of room to see or leave to get another drink if you were on the main floor. Mogwai have been around since 1995, and this show featured a handful of their earliest songs mixed in with some of the more epic songs from the last seven years. Based on the volume of the cheers as each song rolled out of the towering amps, I’d say they made the right choices for their set list.Sitting here on this dreary post-Mogwai morning I have to wonder what Mogwai are like when they climb on their tour bus in the morning after a show like this. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Mastodon put on a production at First Avenue

On May 7, 2014, Mastodon played to a sold-out main room show at First Avenue. I had not see them live before then, probably one reason I left feeling amazed. They performed a long set with only brief, banter-free, breaks between songs. At times the frenzy of music was almost all consuming, but also endlessly interesting. Music can be a transformative and comprehensive experience, and Mastodon delivered this on all accounts. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Graveyard with Kadavar and Bombus at the Fine Line Music Café

I wore my favorite Misfits hat to the 1990 Too Dark Park concert at Central Park Ballroom in Milwaukee. No one goes to a Skinny Puppy/Babes in Toyland show expecting things to be sedate but the frenzy of the crowd on that particular night was a surprise and as a result of the melee I lost my favorite Misfits hat to the swirling storm of unwashed punks and rivitheads. I mourned it for days. I was 19.I mention this now, 20-plus years later, because the exact thing happened to me at the Graveyard show at the Fine Line Café in Minneapolis on Friday, April 25. There was one key difference: I was up there in the front getting some shots of Bombus and off went my hat back into the mass of spasming headbangers. Continue Reading

MUSIC REVIEW | Temples hypnotize First Avenue

There was a show on MPR a few months ago about the differences between the Beatles and Rolling Stones over the years. Guests exchanged snarks and anecdotes about which part of the British Invasion was the better one. I couldn’t help but thinking this was an interesting but completely academic exercise. You know there were plenty of lads, or dudes, that eagerly switched from one band’s record to another, that would’ve gladly stumbled, drink and cigarette in hand, from one rock show to another.I suspect that Temples co-founder James Edward Bagshaw could’ve been one of these sorts of gentlemen. On record, Temples sound like a gorgeous tapestry of pop psychedelic highlights. Continue Reading

THEATER REVIEW | We Theater’s “The Shadow War:” Descendants of Hmong soldiers and CIA operative illuminate history

The Shadow War focuses on the years leading up to, during, and after the Vietnam War, when the Central Intelligence Agency and U.S. Army Special Forces developed a secret army made up of Hmong and Lao fighters to combat the spread of communism in Southeast Asia. Playwright Amy Russell, who created the play based on her experiences growing up in Laos as the daughter of CIA operative, explained that this became a workshop project as she developed it with the Hmong community and the actors themselves, including producer and actor Sandy ‘Ci Moua.

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MUSIC REVIEW | Broken Bells find the high road at First Avenue

When people talk about shows they’ve been to, they generally talk about the artist. They talk about what they liked, what they didn’t like, or how much of the famous person’s sweat they got on them because they were right there under the stage. Usually, unless there’s some real jerk or jerkette standing in their personal space, they don’t talk about the crowd. Broken Bells was very sold-out, so I think mentioning the crowd is worthwhile.The crowd at Broken Bells was remarkably taller and larger than the average for most shows I go to. Noticeably so. Continue Reading