Off The Radar Summer Entertainment

ImageAs the summer months approach there are undoubtedly a lot of exciting things in the entertainment world to look forward to. At the movies there’s the return of Indiana Jones and a handful of big budget popcorn superhero movies (the most exciting of course being The Dark Knight). In the music realm there are countless outdoor concert festivals across the country featuring a range of different artists and groups. Add this to new albums by Coldplay (Ole!), Weezer, Death Cab For Cutie, My Morning Jacket (already making a splash in the indie music blogosphere), and a number of interesting solo albums from the likes of actress Scarlett Johansson, Jakob Dylan, Steely Dan’s Walter Becker, and one Gavin Rossdale. Even 80s pin-up Rick Springfield is apparently making a comeback. How ‘bout that?


Then there’s the democratic primary battle, which is entertaining, if not totally nerve-racking, and will most likely carry on through the summer. If we’re lucky the commonwealth of Puerto Rico with its 63 delegates may become a major player in the drawn out race. Supporting players like the outspoken and misunderstood Rev. Wright only add to this fascinating political turn of events.


Then there are the less obvious highlights to look forward–the pieces of the entertainment industry that are still hiding off the radar. The following is a short-list of some the more intriguing but under-hyped upcoming events this summer. 

MUSIC

Chicago seems to have become a haven for some of the best summer music festivals around. Lollapalooza enters its fourth year at Grant Park, Pitchfork Music Fest returns for another indie music filled gala, not to mention staple favorites like Jazz and Blues fest. Some of the more surprising concert events this summer come at Chi Town’s lesser-known festivities. 

Stevie Wonder is on board to perform a free show at The Taste of Chicago and nothing compliments brats and deep dish better than a collection from the master of soul’s songs in the key of life.


Since its construction Millennium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion has long been a haven for classical and niche musical events but ever since artists like Mavis Staples and Wilco took the stage the sheik amphitheater is slowly becoming one of the hotter outdoor venues in the city. This summer Death Cab for Cutie and Chicago’s own Andrew Bird will play to a crowd of fans under the hum of the lights of the city skyline, the latter being a free show.
Other traveling acts to look out for: Erykah Badu on tour for her tour de force new album New Amerykah Vol. 1 with The Roots, hip-hop’s truly talented band backing her up. Sly Stone originally planned a mini U.S. tour after years of reclusion but he recently cancelled a handful of shows including an upcoming appearance at Chicago’s Vic Theater due to health issues. Finally, Tom Waits, the minister of the bizarre, is set for a rare tour of Europe and the U.S. 

AT THE MOVIES
ImageForget the upcoming explosion of big blockbusters and superhero outings. The most intriguing film of the summer that has yet to make a splash is political satirist Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous, which is set for a mid-July release date. Very little is known about the comedian and longtime non-believer or secular rationalist’s new documentary except for what he’s plugged on his show, Real Time With Bill Maher and his appearances on Larry King. The film, which was directed by Larry Charles of Seinfeld and Borat fame, is supposedly a broad overview of the absurdities of organized religion and is in the running to be this summer’s most controversial film (after all it seems every summer post Fahrenheit 9/11 must feature at least one controversial film).


Some Bill Maher haters (mainly far right-wingers and various religious groups) have already started a shitstorm of protest for the film with no doubt more to come closer to its release date. Many people may be unaware of the film but it’s safe to say it will stir things up (it was originally set for an Easter release date if that tells you anything about his intent). Bottom line, if Mel Gibson can make an ultra successful two hour film chronicling the painful torture of J.C, Bill Maher has every right to make a film explaining why he believes Gibson and other’s favorite Bible stories are ridiculous. The big question is will the film garner the same following. Will he be able to connect to the large minority of so-called “rationalists” that he believes is out there without a voice.


Other smaller films to look out for: acclaimed documentarian Errol Morris’ new film about the Abu Ghraib prison scandal and more importantly about the issue of military torture. Not exactly a feel good summer romp but arguably one of the more socially important films to see.


The Academy Award Nominated film Mongol, Kazakhstan’s official foreign language film submission for 2007 finally gets a (limited) U.S. release. Very few films have been made about Genghis Khan, quite possibly one of the most fascinating and underappreciated conquerors in world history (if you remember the man almost moved in on Europe), and none have been done at an epic scale. While a film entirely in the Mongolian language with zero movie star pull may not lure the masses, film buffs and historians alike will no doubt find some intrigue in this release.


Most people are more than ready to stand amongst thousands of Radiohead fans at one of the band’s various American appearances this summer and it’s safe to say many of us are dying in anticipation to see what Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did with The Joker character. There is more than enough hype for major events like these–and rightfully so. Still the many other smaller, understated happenings and releases this summer are equally intriguing and deserve to be recognized so as not to be overlooked.

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