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Thursday, July 30, 2009

No small beer?

Posted on Thu, Jul 30, 2009 at 3:59 PM

After the controversy surrounding the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates by Cambridge police Sgt. James Crowley, there’s no doubt that President Barack Obama had hoped to defuse some of the tension by calling for a “Beer Summit.” The beer-themed meeting between the president and the two men, set...

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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Soldiers of fortune

In action and story, The Hurt Locker might be the year’s best

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The Hurt Locker has 10 times the thrills of Michael Bay’s $200 million Transformers sequel, and on a budget of $11 million. It’s not only the best action movie of the season; it’s one of the best films of the year so far. Fact-based and character-driven, The Hurt Locker, written by journalist Mark Boal, focuses on a three-man squad that specializes in defusing roadside bombs in Iraq. When the team’s leader (Guy Pearce) is lost, the surviving members (Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) must make it through the remaining 38 days of their tour with a new and far more reckless replacement, hotshot Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner). Wisely, Bigelow depicts war as intimate and modest, turning the screws on the audience by ratcheting up the tension and playing down combat pyrotechnics. The Hurt Locker is not a conventional approach to wartime heroics but rather a penetrating and harrowing examination of its unrelenting damage on the human psyche.

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G-Force

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

G-Force just isn’t wacky or fleet-footed enough to deliver on its gleefully idiotic premise. In fact, the five writers credited with overscripting this sporadically engaging but dumber-than-dirt kiddie actioner nearly suffocate the story in dull dramatic arcs, endless exposition and no-fun, overcomplicated spy thriller tropes. Take the guinea pig’s opening 10-minute covert operation. Instead of sending up the genre with a clever wink and a nod, they bog things down with incidents and exchanges that’d fit in any Mission Impossible knock-offs. The writers think the rodent-cum-superspy conceit is joke enough, that no more thought need be given to parody, homage or character. Even Cats vs. Dogs, for all its stupidity, invested more ingenuity in its humor. Here, the wit extends to fart and poop jokes. The voice acting is impressive though. Sam Rockwell, Penelope Cruz, Tracy Morgan, Steve Buscemi, Jon Favreau and a deliriously silly Nicolas Cage bring their A-game. Their human counterparts fare far worse, with Zach Galifianakis and Will Arnett made inexcusably boring and Kelli Garner pared down to a near-wordless nub.

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Departures

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Cellist Daigo (Masahiro Motoki) is a capable but unspectacular artist struggling to find work after his orchestra disbands. Answering an ad for help with “departures,” — which he assumes has something to do with travel (despite the presence of coffins in the office) — he’s immediately hired by a gruff and cuddly old man (Tsutomu Yamazaki). Before you can say, “fish out of water,” Daigo is cleaning, dressing and grooming corpses for grieving families. Worried what his wife will think, Daigo hides his unsavory “casketing” job even as he grows to enjoy it. Obvious metaphors being what they are, we soon see the young musician’s reinvention and renewal. Unfortunately, however, director Yôjirô Takita and screenwriter Kundo Koyama want their movie to mean something, so in the last third of this too-long tale we’re treated to over-the-top instances of cloying sentimentality.

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Eternal flame

Zoey Deschanel proves she’s Gen Y’s Jean Seberg, and lots, lots more

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Lovelorn Tom (Joseph Gordon Leavitt) is a victim of movies, pop songs and even the greeting cards he cranks out, all of which hard-sell him on the idea of true love. He’s all too ready to fall hard when his gorgeous new co-worker Summer (Zooey Deschanel) corners him in the elevator and tells him she likes the Smiths song on his iPod. And so it goes ...

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Orphan

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Vera Farmiga and sleepy-eyed Peter Saarsgard play the yuppie saps who fall for her act, bringing her into their lush country manse, and into their lives, which are, you’ll note, promptly ruined. They’ve two children already, but a miscarriage convinces them that another will repair the cracks in their marriage. Umm, bad call. Despite icy stares from other kids, there’s something about the little pig-tailed angel in silk ribbons when she sits quietly alone in the orphanage art room. The distracted husband should notice all warning signs, but he’s more interested in Ester’s amazingly advanced paintings skills and deceptively sweet manner. Something’s just ain’t right with this gal, and bad things start happening.

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Soul Power

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

The “hardest working man in show business” earned his crown here, with a frenetic, sweat-soaked headline performance that kills in this engrossing, if somewhat spotty, doc. Essentially a companion to the superior Oscar-winner When We Were Kings, Soul Power is culled from 1974 footage shot around the Ali-Foreman heavyweight title fight, set in what was then the Republic of Zaire. A three-day music fest coincided, featuring James Brown, B.B King, the Spinners and Bill Withers, alongside African acts such as singer-activist Miriam Makeba. Unfortunately, Foreman got hurt while sparring, the bout was postponed, and the concert became the star attraction. The fight was a phenomenon, the concert only a footnote, and no amount of editing can rectify that. But the concert footage is great fun, with Brown backed by classically tight deep funk, with Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker throwing down.

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Midnight Madness

This week, at the stroke of 12

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

Four karate-leaping, pizza-scarfing, sewer-dwelling and mutated turtle dudes fighting crime with a rat for a mentor and a leggy human gal sidekick? Sure … that could work. What started out in 1984 as a black-and-white comic out of Massachusetts with a microscopic print run grew to become the improbable kiddie phenomenon of the ’80 s and ’90s, and a money-printing juggernaut to this day.

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Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry into the Value of Work

Posted By on Wed, Jul 29, 2009 at 12:00 AM

When was the last time you met a kid in middle or high school in shop class? I can’t remember either, and I have a 15-year-old sister. Information technology is at the forefront of our education, but those jobs are sent overseas, so where does that leave the office worker?...

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

'Dotte Fair In Music

Posted By on Thu, Jul 23, 2009 at 10:17 AM

Last month, Metro Times featured the emergence of Single Barrel Detroit.com — a group of guerilla filmmakers dedicated to creating original music videos of Detroit musicians interacting with distinctively Detroit places. On Friday, July 10 the group found themselves at the Wyandotte Street Arts Fair documenting the ‘dAP Summer Festival....

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