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Jorge Velez - Roman Birds Music Album Reviews

Inspired by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, this five-track ambient wonder finds the New York producer letting pulses and motifs overlap until the tracks resemble the inside of a lava lamp.
Jorge Velez has long been prolific, but that’s been especially true in the past few years. Like many underground electronic musicians, the New York producer has taken advantage of the internet’s self-publishing opportunities—in particular, the direct-to-fans platform Bandcamp—to sidestep label gatekeepers, streaming services, and crowded retailers. (Velez’s Bandcamp page currently numbers 26 releases.) Velez first gained recognition a dozen years ago with blippy disco derivatives for labels like Italians Do It Better, but his output has gradually become more esoteric and inward-looking. He’s still capable of ebullient club tracks, as last year’s excellent Forza attests, but many of his long, undulating machine jams sound like late-night missives to himself.

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Midnight Sun Movie Review

Midnight Sun Movie Review
Pale "Moonlight"

Soaked in moonlight and lingering dread, the new teen weeper “Midnight Sun” plays like “Muppet Babies” meets Nicholas Sparks, which, as you could imagine, isn't much of a compliment. From the beginning, we know how this thing will go because it can’t end happy. The journey depends on how much patience you have for the material.

“Midnight Sun” is a dog whistle to the teeny-bopper crowd, who are looking to gather their friends and weep for a night at the movies (in between sending Snapchats as the film is playing, as they did during my showing). In that sense, “Midnight Sun” is undoubtedly a success because there were sniffles all around me. But there’s no denying the film’s glaring problems or ignoring its flat dialogue.

Bella Throne stars as Katie, who has spent the majority of her life indoors. She suffers from XP, a disease that prevents her from being exposed to sunlight. Her father (Rob Riggle, a surprise MVP) homeschools her and her best friend Morgan (Quinn Shephard) visits her every day, trying to give her a sense a normal teenager. Most of her life takes place at her window, where she watches her peers pass on by.

At night, Katie likes to go to the train station and play her guitar. Charlie (Patrick Schwarzenegger) is drawn to her, hoping to get to know her. Katie is shy and skittish, not entirely sure how to interact with Charlie, who she has had a crush on from her window since they were young kids. He is persistent and she finally accepts his offer to take her on a date, as long as it’s at night.

“Midnight Sun” follows the expected trajectory from the meet-cute to the predictable ending without offering much in between. When movies like this are built on such tried-and-true formulas, any enjoyment rides on the chemistry of the leads. Thorne and Schwarzenegger are pleasant together but never really have much of a spark. Thorne is mostly doing an impression of a high school girl and Schwarzenegger doesn’t have strong enough presence to be a romantic leading man.

Sure, the whole thing is saccharine but it’s meant to be. What’s puzzling is some of the massive plot holes and gaps in logic along the way. Katie can’t be exposed to sunlight but if it fits the story that she needs to be somewhere during the day, it’s acceptable. Director Scott Speer doesn’t appear to care about continuity; he just wants your tears. If you go into “Midnight Sun” wanting to see this movie, you’re likely going to give them to him.

“Midnight Sun” has sat on the shelf for a bit and the entire construct of the film feels dated. Everything is framed and shot like an early-2000s romantic drama, which doesn’t have the swoony effect the film thinks it has. But, hey. I’m just a grouchy critic, whose opinion truly doesn’t matter when it comes to “Midnight Sun.”

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