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  • Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well

    By LeeAnn Brown Some people say that hip-hop is dead. Local ban Fderal Ground is proving that is not the case. The seven-member band, consisting of three lead vocalists, a DJ, bass, drums and guitar, plays what they call “living hip-hop.” Their music, peppered with multiple styles, covers all aspects of life from growing up in the D to playing with fire despite knowing you will likely get burned. Their undeniable chemistry and raw lyrics compose a music that is living, breathing, and connecting to their listeners. It has been nearly 11 years since Vinny Mendez and Michael Powers conjured up the basement idea that has flowered into the Detroit funk-hop band Feral Ground. Throughout high school the two wrote and rapped consistently, playing shows here and there. In those years they matched their rap stanzas with the animated, dynamic voice of Ginger Nastase and saw an instant connection. The now trio backed their lyrics with DJ Aldo’s beats on and off for years, making him a permanent member within the last year, along with Andy DaFunk (bass), Joseph Waldecker (drums), and newest member, Craig Ericson (guitar). We sat down with Feral Ground and their manager, Miguel Mira, in their […]

    The post Detroit group Feral Ground is out to prove hip-hop is alive and well appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law

    Much has been made about Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr’s decision this week to transfer authority of the city’s water department to Mayor Mike Duggan. In what is the most interesting read on the situation, Jason Stanley, professor of philosophy at Yale, pens an analysis on Michigan’s novel emergency manager law on the New York Times Opinionator blog. Stanley deconstructs Michigan’s grand experiment in governance by addressing two questions: Has the EM law resulted in policy that maximally serves the public good? And, is the law consistent with basic principles of democracy? Stanley ties in examples of Plato, James Madison’s Federalist Papers, and Nazi political theorist Carl Schmitt. A short excerpt: Plato was a harsh critic of democracy, a position that derived from the fact that his chief value for a society was social efficiency. In Plato’s view, most people are not capable of employing their autonomy to make the right choices, that is, choices that maximize overall efficiency. Michigan is following Plato’s recommendation to handle the problems raised by elections. Though there are many different senses of “liberty” and “autonomy,” none mean the same thing as “efficiency.” Singapore is a state that values efficiency above all. But by no stretch of […]

    The post Yale professor talks Plato, James Madison and Detroit’s emergency manager law appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week

    Walking with Dinosaurs, a magnificent stage show that features life-sized animatronic creatures from the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous periods, will be in town next week. But to preview the show’s run at the Palace, a baby T-Rex will be making an appearance at four area malls to the delight and wonderment of shoppers. Baby T-Rex, as the creature is being affectionately referred to, is seven-feet-tall and 14-feet-long. He’ll only be at each mall for about 15 minutes, so while there will be photo opportunities, they’ll be short. The dino will be at Fairlane Town Center Center Court at 18900 Michigan Ave. in Detroit from 2-2:15 p.m. today, July 30; The Mall at Partridge Creek at 17420 Hall Rd. in Clinton Township from 5-5:15 p.m. today, July 30; Twelve Oaks Mall at the Lord & Taylor Court at 27500 Novi Rd., Novi tomorrow, Thursday July 31 from 1:30-1:45 p.m.; and Great Lakes Crossing Food Court at 4000 Baldwin Rd., Auburn Hills from 5-5:15 p.m., tomorrow Thursday, July 31.  

    The post Where to meet a baby dinosaur this week appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations

    Interested in reading about what Detroit accomplishes on a week-to-week basis that’s produced by the city itself? Great. You can do that now, here, at the Detroit Dashboard. Every Thursday morning, the city will publish an update to the dashboard because Mayor Mike Duggan loves metrics, even if the data might be hard to come by. According to Duggan’s office, the dashboard will provide data on how many LED street lights were installed, how many vacant lots were mowed, how much blight was removed, and more. This week, the city says it has sold 13 site lots through BuildingDetroit.com, removed 570 tons of illegal dumping, and filed 57 lawsuits against abandoned property owners.  

    The post Detroit website offers stats, updates on city operations appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial

    We don’t know about you, but usually Nancy Whiskey and Long John Silver’s aren’t two concepts we’d place in the same sentence. However, the international fast food fish fry conglomerate made a nod to the Detroit dive in their latest YouTube commercial. LJS is offering free fish fries on Saturday, August 2, which is the promotion the commercial is attempting to deliver. But, we think we’ll just go to Nancy Whiskey instead.

    The post Long John Silver’s makes nod to Nancy Whiskey in YouTube commercial appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women

    We came across an interesting item this week: Apparently, a music festival with the name “Michfest” is quietly oriented as a “Women-Only Festival Exclusively for ‘Women Born Women.’” It seems a strange decision to us. If you wanted to have a women-only music festival, why not simply proclaim loud and clear that it is for all sorts of women? But if you really wanted to become a lightning rod for criticisms about transphobia, organizers have found the perfect way to present their festival. Now, we know that defenders of non-cisgender folks have it tough. The strides made by gays and lesbians (and bisexuals) in the last 20 years have been decisive and dramatic. But the people who put the ‘T’ in LGBT have reason to be especially defensive, facing a hostile culture and even some disdain from people who should be their natural allies. That said, sometimes that defensiveness can cause some activists to go overboard; when we interviewed Dan Savage a couple years ago, he recalled his “glitter bombing” and said it was due to the “the narcissism of small differences,” adding that “if you’re playing the game of who is the most victimized, attacking your real enemies doesn’t prove you’re most victimized, claiming you […]

    The post Michigan’s women-only music fest still shuns trans women appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Review: Gangster Squad

Mobster movies misses the mark

Photo: N/A, License: N/A


C+

Though it tries mightily, The Untouchables it ain’t. First of all, screenwriter Will Beall is no David Mamet. And as stylish as director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) can be, he just doesn’t have the cinematic chops to match Brian De Palma. Finally, while Sean Penn’s cartoonish scenery-chewing is good for a chuckle or two, it never comes close to the operatic menace that Robert de Niro brought to Al Capone.

Now, normally I might say that it’s not fair to hold these two films up next to each other. But Fleischer and his team invite the comparisons. Not only does de Niro’s menacing rant, “I want him dead. I want his family dead.” get re-created by Penn as a frothing shriek of, “I want them all dead! … I want their pets dead!” but Gangster Squad’sfinale tries to emulate De Palma’s train station shoot-’em-up (which was borrowed from Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin, no less) with a hotel grand staircase slow-mo tommy-gun battle that looks like an early ’90s music video. Though adequately entertaining because of its cast, relentless action and setting, Gangster Squad can’t help but play like a third-generation knockoff.

A World War II ex-Special Forces soldier turned cop, John O’Mara (Josh Brolin) is a battering ram of a man, tasked by L.A.’s last honest police chief (Nick Nolte) to put together a secret crew of LAPD outsiders and take down the ruthless gangster Mickey Cohen (Penn) —no easy job when greed and corruption are the rule of the day. In a twist that goes nowhere, O’Mara’s pregnant wife Connie chooses John’s team of incorruptible outsiders and —wouldn’t you know it, they’re a Benetton ad of multiculturism. There’s the grizzled cowboy sharpshooter (Robert Patrick), his trusty Hispanic sidekick (Michael Peña), a geeky communications genius (Giovanni Ribisi), a by-the-book black beat cop (Anthony Mackie), and the oh-so-cool and cocky Ryan Gosling. None are fully-fledged characters, but all look terrific in their period outfits. In case you couldn’t guess, what little personal drama there is involves Gosling falling for Cohen’s dame (Emma Stone).

What might have been Gangster Squad’s most interesting conceit — a WWII vet leading a team of cops to wage military-style warfare against a mobster — ends up being the reason the movie comes across as so incredibly dumb. Not only is O’Mara laughably bad at leading his men into battle, screenwriter Beall often forgets to exploit his own concept. For instance, in a decently staged car chase, it’s Cohen’s goons that think to use grenades on the cops, not the other way around. In another scene, the thugs pull out a military-style machine gun. Meanwhile, Gosling’s character implores O’Mara to get smart about how they fight. It’s advice that goes nowhere. For all the cops’ talk of “The War,” the only lesson the Sarge seems to have learned is “charge that hill!”

Sleek and stylish, it’s clear that Gangster Squad wants to be a brutish, pulpy pastiche. There are plenty of neon lights, perfectly sized fedoras and dames in red dresses. Art-deco is all the rage, shell casings ping off marble floors during gunfights, and the soundtrack boasts a playlist of well-chosen period tunes (the film’s most original touch). But the movie is too glossy to be film noir and too formulaic and shallow to be as hardboiled as, say, L.A. Confidential. Instead, Gangster Squad comes off as the most violent episode of Dragnet ever made —with its jingoistic, might-makes-right flag-waving intact.

Originally slated to be released last summer, the shooting at the Aurora movie theater in Colorado not only pushed Gangster Squad’s release to this January but inspired a reshoot of its biggest action scene —a gunfight in a movie theater (it now occurs in Chinatown). I applaud the filmmakers’ sensitivity to the subject of real-world violence, but can’t help thinking it’s oddly placed in a film that opens with a man being pulled apart by a pair of automobiles.