There Goes the Movies-The Dark Knight Rises Tragic Opening Day

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Here at 4-Star I was all set to enjoy my theater going experience via the midnight showing of the new Dark Knight Rises movie. I was going to get my life in every possible way, come home around 3:30 am, and then tell you all about it the next day. And I was riding high until I popped opened my Firefox browser today.

Today in Aurora, Colorado at approximately 12:15 am, while a theater of innocent movie watchers looked on a 24 year-old man entered the movie theater with a riffle and two other handguns. Movie watchers believed it to be a prop, a clever live action way to play up the action of the movie. The man, now identified as James Holmes, shot and killed 12 patrons and also wounded 50 others in his tirade. Some say that the assailant was a medical student on his way to receiving his PhD, man of science or not this man should be prosecuted to the fullest extent. The shooter did not resist arrest, actually waiting in the parking lot for police forces to arrest him.

We’ll never know what was going through Mr. Holmes’ head but some of us may never look at a movie theater the same way again. But this shouldn’t take away from the performance of the actors in Dark Knight Rises.

The story follows the events of Harvey Dent and the Joker eight years later and Gotham City is now in peace. Harvey Dent was never revealed to be Two-Face and our favorite masked hero Batman was forced to take the blame. It is something that Commissioner James Jordon, revised by Gary Oldman, is finding hard to live with. Christian Bale, as Bruce Wayne, has become a recluse and morns over the lose of his love. He is brought together with Cat Woman, played by Anne Hathaway, not under the best circumstances as she steals a precious heirloom from the Wayne manor. Bane,Tom Hardy,  arises as a truly respectable villain. A performance not seen since the tragic passing of Heath Ledger as the Joker. There’s plenty of action and the 2 hours and 44 minutes of the film aren’t overkill at all (though it is this blogger’s opinion that some of the longer sequences could have stayed on the cutting room floor). I guarantee you will NOT be disappointed. A solid 3 out of 4 stars.

The two surprise breakout stars in this movie were definitely Anne Hathaway and Joseph Gordon Levitt as Detective Blake. I was a little worried that Hathaway would be too prim and proper to get down and dirty as the iconic cat burglar but ma’am she holds her own. Even in action scenes she gives a tribute to the old-school coyness of past Cat Woman actresses with her snappy and witty banter. Levitt steals the show from Bale seemingly calling him out in the movie as a hero who has given up. His character is full of heart and has a surprising tie-in into the story. He represents Batman’s motto that anyone can be a hero. Shoot, he made me believe that I could take down an army of thugs with just one shotgun but again he probably has his own stunt double.

What both the tragic shooting and the movie have in common is that is shows the strength in which one person can have. It truly does take one person to save or dismantle a civilization. It also shows the darkness of the human spirit, how sometimes the most dangerous spot can be a face swimming in a crowd of people.

4-Star sends its deepest condolences to the people and families of the victims of this shooting. We never thought that an institution such as the movies, which is supposed to give us an escape from the harsh times we live in, would be so mutilated.

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Taste of Chicago 2012: Budget or Bust?

A Chicago trademark for thirty-two years and running the annual feeding frenzy fest known as the Taste of Chicago is a foodie beacon for all. When I heard news that the “Taste” would be pushed back after the July 4thholiday I toyed around with the idea of coming out and walking Columbus Drive once again. Reminiscing on days of my youth spent waking up at ungodly hours to take one sometimes two buses to Midway, hopping the Orange Line down to the fest, sporting freshly purchased “fits” (a common urban colloquialism referring to a brand new outfit, usually gaudy and by some sort of B-rate designer, see also Coogi) bought with parents’ money while always seeking the important pursuit of attention from boys.  The bash has been scaled down over the years but the event had over 2.35 million patrons in attendance and 4.9 millions in sales in 2011. So what was the worst they could do this year right? They were already experiencing some less than stellar concert sales only selling half of 15,000 available tickets for all five acts. But hey,that’s $200,000 in concert tickets before the event began, that’s still a lot of coin. Before we debate the suppose it financial crisis that Chicago seems to be in, despite the fact that they are continuously taxing and ticketing our asses, let’s get into the important part of the Taste, the food! I, Vonnie Coleman, on behalf of 4-Star got up and hit the fest with a good friend in tow.

I started out my journey the CTA’s tightly packed 29th Route from Chinatown on 23rd and State. In already 91 degree heat you can imagine the pleasure it was to be face-to-armpit with the “strongly scented” gentlemen next to me. In the words of one of my favorite bloggers/YouTube Commentator Kid Fury, it was “hot boots!” After being packed up in there like the Middle Passage my friend and I were finally liberated and walked a couple blocks over. You know you’re nearing a major Chicago event whenever you hear the city famous “buckle boys” beating on drums, plastic containers, and whatever else recyclable material they can get their hands on. Wanting to enjoy the sites but with notepad and recorder in hand I figured it’d be no better time than ever to interview some fellow fest goers. Three questions. Three questions are all I asked but gave me a lot of insight into the soul of the Taste.

The questions asked were:

1.What brought you out to the “Taste?”

2. What vendor was your favorite?

3. What would you change or take away for the following year?

Michelle C. came out to the Taste on a lunch break with her coworkers. She confessed that one of the crowd favorites Texas de Brazil brought flavor that would make our American state of Texas feel small in comparison. The dish she loved? The Chicken wrapped in Bacon stood tall amongst the other booths. 4-Star grabbed a “Taste” portion, the smaller meal portion that allows you a nibble without squandering your hard earned tickets, and we’d say we would have to agree.

As we made our way around the distributors we found two foxy ladies of a “certain age” (you know a lady never tells) standing in front of The Fudge Pot indulging in some of their famous chocolate covered strawberries. For them, the Taste was an annual event. Two best gal pals hitting the scene!We gabbed and they professed that Lou Malnati’s, only a Chicago institute in pizzeria prowess, was the best there is, hands down! What would they change? Nothing at all! For them, the Taste of Chicago was as much a part of the mystique of our city than the skyline. Good to see there are still some diehard Chicagoans out there.

While trying not to keel over and die in the blazing heat I stumbled upon a trio of teen divas making their way around the action. I must admit I had a soft spot for these ladies. You know, childhood memories and all that jazz. (Yes, before the painful reality of adulthood set in) Destiny L., Ashley R., and Autumn R. were extremely cheerful and welcoming which was awesome for a newbie newsie like me. I mean seriously, you go up to complete strangers in Chicago and expect to leave without your face on the floor.

For the trio of ladies the Taste offered a constant reminder of the joyous time known as summer break before the crushing return to their 10th grade year started up in the fall. Because nothing says screw responsibility than spending your parents money. But don’t let the age deter you the ladies offered some valuable input. Their favorites were Reggio’s and a southside favorite Harolds. The pizza offered a mouthful of Italy’s boot and need I say more on the mild sauce goodness of Harold’s?

After nearly spontaneously combusting this editor had to take refuge under a tree. I had almost forgotten that shade was a thing to rest in and not throw (“shade” being an urban reference to attitude giving as well as putting a particular nasty person in their place). Anywho, after taking a break and sampling some more food I was in awe  of what could only be described as a “crew,” several people brought together in the essence of having fun. I got a chance to pick the brains of Oscar A., Jose S., Maya H., Victor T., and last but not least the gorgeous Janet T.

Why’d they risk near heat stroke to come out that day, “Food!” they all said. Victor T. was more than upset he was near on gospel at discovering the fact our famous turkey drumsticks were no longer in fashion at the Taste. “It’s the only reason I came!” he exclaimed. I felt his pain and promised to mention it on the blog. We were even in talks at starting a petition demanding the reemergence of the gargantuan turkey legs. They shared that the pot stickers at Star of Siam were first rate and the corn from O’Briens was mouthwatering.

Shortly after I was able to strike interviewing gold! A real live tourist group. Victoria, Maurice, and simply known as “Mom” traveled to Chicago from Kansas City, Missouri or KC Mo. It was their first time in the city and they seemed a little reserved but that didn’t stop them from chatting about some of the scrumptious food they tasted while on their travels. For Victoria ice cream from Original Rainbow Cone was the ultimate for cooling and chowing down combined. “Mom,” loved the rib tips from Robinson’s No. 1 Ribs. “They were almost better than mine,” she shared.

So What was 4-Star’s Favorite Picks?

Best Value: Went to Dominicks for offering a 2-ticket slice of watermelon that was more than generous.

Best Dessert: Sorry, Eli’s but Franco’s Ristorante’s took the top spot in dessert decadence with icy but satisfying Italian ice.

Flavor Surprise: Went to Cubby Bear’s Macaroni Bites. Fried morsels of ooey gooey cheesy delight.

Overall Favorite….the first vendor I visited at the Taste, Bacino’s Pizza of Lincoln Park. The cheesy, piping hot wonder stayed on my mind all day as I wished I hadn’t skimped out on the full portion for 9 tickets. Ah, what can you do?

Out of five interviews including the advice of my friend, Denise C., the resounding advice for next year’s Taste of Chicago was more booths and cheaper prices! Only featuring a scarce 36 compared to 70 in the past, after Taste patrons hit up some of their beloved eateries…there wasn’t much left to see. That coupled with steadily climbing ticket prices left Taste-goers wondering did they get what they paid for?

It is 4-Star’s opinion that prices change but entertainment lasts forever! We have got to get more things for the event goers to do while we are not filling our gullets I mean palates. Successful Tastes that I have been to in the past always had something going on: a radio station giveaway, FREE concerts, attractions, demonstrations, you name it. It was there, it was fun and it was free. Many times friends and I would be done eating but still manage to stay at the event until it closed.

I guess others in attendance felt the same because numbers went down from 2.35 million from last year to half 1.2 million fest goers. Official numbers are not yet in on how much Mayor Emanuel racked in, I mean acquired, from the 5 day extravaganza. But many were not discouraged by this. Taste of Chicago overseers’ commented that given the fact the event had been all but rebooted attendance was not looked at as a disappointment. At the end the Taste of Chicago is still America’s largest food festival so I think we as Chicago-dwellers can be relieved in that fact.