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    In this week’s Metro Times we took a look at the state legislature’s role in Detroit’s ongoing bankruptcy — in particular, how it must approve a $350 million pledge for the so-called “grand bargain” to remain intact. And, with last night’s announcement of a significant deal between the city and Detroit’s pension boards and retiree groups, the ball is Lansing’s court now. The new deal, first reported by the Freep, would cut general employees monthly pension checks by 4.5 percent and eliminate their cost-of-living increases. Police and fire retirees would see no cuts to monthly checks, while their cost-of-living increases would be reduced from 2.25 percent to 1 percent. Under the original offer, police and fire retirees cuts were as high as 14 percent, with general retirees as high as 34 percent, that is, if the groups rejected the “grand bargain,” an $816 million proposal funded by foundations, the state, and the DIA to shore up pensions. The sweeter deal for pensions, though, it must be noted, entirely relies on the state legislature approving $350 million for Detroit’s bankruptcy.  And while this broke after Metro Times went to press, that was the focal point of this week’s News Hits column — so, it’s worth repeating: The […]

    The post Detroit’s grand bargain still needs Lansing’s approval appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday

    This Saturday, April 19, is Record Store Day, and there is plenty going on in metro Detroit and Michigan. Of special interest to us is Chiodos’ 7” single “R2ME2/Let Me Get You A Towel,” Mayer Hawthorne & Shintaro Skamoto’s 7” “Wine Glass Woman/In a Phantom,” Chuck Inglish & Action Bronson’s 7” “Game Time,” Chuck Inglish & Chance the Rapper’s 7” “Glam,” Chuck Inglish & Chromeo’s 7” “Legs,” Chuck Inglish, Mac Miller & Ab-Soul’s 7” “Easily,” James Williamson’s 7” “Open Up and Bleed/Gimme Some Skin,” Black Milk’s 12” “Glitches in the Break,” Mayer Hawthorne’s 10” “Jaded Inc.,” Wayne Kramer & the Lexington Arts Ensemble’s 12” “Lexington,” and best of all, Ray Parker Jr.’s 10” “Ghostbusters.” We wrote about James Williamson’s release this week. Go shop. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Local releases for Record Store Day on Saturday appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May

    Margaret Doll Rod will celebrate the release of her new EP, Margaret, with a show at PJ’s Lager House on Saturday, May 10. A statement reads, “The EP contains 3 new original songs and one Chrome Cranks cover with Italian actress Asia Argento singing background vocals. Margaret moved to Italy after the end of the Demolition Doll Rods where she still lives touring and performing festivals in Europe. The Dollrods were a Garage Rock force for over 20 years, opening for Iggy, Jon Spencer, The Scientist, The Monks and The Cramps. Margaret was the front person and principal songwriter for The Dollrods. Her chief musical foil was Danny Kroha, who joined the Demolition Doll Rods after the now legendary Gories called it quits. Margaret’s sister, Christine, on drums, rounded out the legendary trio. Margaret will do a special performance in the round that night with a 360 degree revolving stage and special guest DJ Adam Stanfel.” The bill will also feature the Stomp Rockets and the Volcanos. Follow @City_Slang

    The post City Slang: Margaret Doll Rod to play EP release show in May appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • City Slang: Music review roundup

    Send CDs, vinyl, cassettes, demos and 8-tracks to Brett Callwood, Metro Times, 1200 Woodward Heights, Ferndale MI 48220. Email MP3s and streaming links to bcallwood@metrotimes.com. Ricky Rat’s Tokyo Pop/Glitter People (New Fortune) 7” single highlights all that’s great about the Trash Brats guitarist, but also his limitations. The man can write a bubblegum rock ’n’ roll song to match anyone in the city and most beyond. He’s also a killer guitarist, ripping out one throwaway riff after another with reckless abandon. He’s a machine. On his own though, without Trash Brats frontman Brian McCarty, his voice doesn’t have enough strength to do the songs justice. Not that you need to have the greatest voice in the world to sing this stuff – you don’t need to be able to perform vocal gymnastics – but you do have to be able to wail the tunes out. Both of the songs on this single are great, but you can’t help but wonder how much better they would sound with McCarty or somebody similar talking the mic. Still, as they are the songs are great fun. We’re just being picky. The Paper Sound’s Trajectories is a dense, atypically dark Americana-tinged album, unrelenting and […]

    The post City Slang: Music review roundup appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes

    “Neighbors wanted.” That’s the message on the homepage of buildingdetroit.org, a new website launched by the City of Detroit today to auction off city-owned homes to prospective buyers who pledge to fix them up and move in. “We are moving aggressively to take these abandoned homes and get families living in them again,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement today. “There are a lot of people who would love to move into many of our neighborhoods. Knowing that other people are going to be buying and fixing up the other vacant homes at the same time will make it a lot easier for them to make that commitment.” The website to facilitate the auctions went live this afternoon. The first auction is scheduled to take place Monday, May 5. Officials said in a news release that one home will be auctioned per day, Monday through Friday. Fifteen homes are available for sale on the site, a dozen of which are in the East English Village neighborhood. Any Michigan resident, company, or organization that can do business in the state can bid, according to the website. Properties will be for sale for only one day, with bidding taking place from 8 […]

    The post Detroit launches website to auction city-owned homes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

  • Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes

    In case you haven’t heard, two of the biggest names in film, Steven Spielberg and John Williams, are collaborating to put on a benefit concert for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra this summer. In case you wanted to go- well, you’re too damn late. The DSO says tickets to the June 14 concert were snapped up in a record-breaking 15 minutes after they went on sale at 9 a.m. today. The DSO has since released this statement to fans who didn’t snag seats: Our apologies to everyone who was unable to buy tickets this morning for our historic benefit concert featuring John Williams and Steven Spielberg. Despite increasing our phone and internet system capacity for the day, a surge of hundreds of ticket buyers purchased tickets in a matter of minutes, filling the phone lines and temporarily maxing out our web servers. After a one-hour pre-sale made available to donors and subscribers at 8am, we released additional seats at 9am to the general public, including seats available for as low as $30. All seats sold out immediately. The concert program seems nothing short of top notch: Williams will conduct the orchestra as it performs some of his most iconic tunes, such […]

    The post Tickets for Steven Spielberg, John Williams summer concert sell out in 15 minutes appeared first on Metro Times Blogs.

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Review: The Impossible

The disaster is amazing, it’s our pampered surrogates who are the problem

Photo: N/A, License: N/A


B-

On a visceral level, Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible delivers an astounding feat of cinematic action and disaster. With a budget far below Hollywood’s tent-pole standard ($45 million), this Spanish production puts to screen one of the most horrifying and intense natural disasters sequences I’ve ever seen.

It’s 2004, and we’re by the pool with Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan MacGregor) and their trio of button-nosed boys at a beachside resort in Thailand. The bar’s whirring blender suddenly stops mid-tropical drink, a strange wind sucks objects toward the sand and then, ominously, the view reverses. We are out at sea, watching the idyllic beach from a menacing, too-high vantage point. The set-up is deviously Hitchcockian. Then the tsunami hits, an apocalypse of water that engulfs our stars as they race to grab their kids. It is the same southeast Asian tsunami that ended up killing nearly quarter of a million people.

Bayona batters his cast and audience with a ferocity that overwhelms. In a good theater you will hear and feel the impact of these crashing waves as much as witness their destruction. The rush of water is like a freight train, and we watch as Maria is sent toppling and twisting through its currents, submerged into soundless, murky depths then surfacing to a maelstrom of mayhem and screams. It’s the kind of filmmaking that leaves your jaw open in amazement, wondering how the hell they did it.

What immediately follows is the agony and terror of a family injured and, more despairingly, separated from one another. In a landscape blasted beyond all recognition, they must first find help then one another. The wasteland imaginings of films like Road Warrior or I Am Legend can’t compare with the real-life devastation wrought by the day-after Christmas tsunami.

After displaying such colossal technical panache, however, The Impossible’s second halfdescends into something far hokier, much more contrived, and ethically troubling. Disaster gives way to Hollywood cliché. The mortally injured Maria and her eldest son Lucas (Tom Holland) make it to an overcrowded medical center only to struggle to survive the chaos and bureaucracy of a system overwhelmed by the catastrophe. I’ll refrain from giving away the fate of the rest of the family. Suffice to say, Bayona and his screenwriter Sergio Sánchez (who also teamed on 2007’s ghostly The Orphanage) are neither subtle nor insightful in their quest to construct an uplifting monument to familial love, and The Impossible transitions from Hitchcockain suspense to Spielbergian sentimentality. This allows Fernando Velázquez’s histrionic score to put an unfortunate exclamation point on every heart-breaking scene.

But keep in mind that the real-life Maria Belon and her Spanish family have been turned into blond and beautiful Brits with upper-class accents and a bourgeois sense of entitlement (a decision guided by box office, no doubt). Yes, Bayona seems to suggest that nature, with just a shrug of its shoulders, can erase the power of privilege and leave all its victims equally vulnerable —if only until the insurance company sends a private jet to whisk the family away to safety. But there’s a disturbing subtext to The Impossible that in the story of the tsunami’s tragic wake there weren’t enough white people included.

For the record, a quick web search reveals that nearly 9,000 foreign tourists died, and many more were injured. Their experiences, of course, matter. But watching a true-life disaster film where indigenous locals who have lost everything become little more than props in a melodrama that magnifies the plight of attractive Europeans hints at a distasteful moral callousness. How hard would it have been to permit a subplot centered around some of the surviving Thais?

The leads are, of course, dependably excellent, with McGregor turning a phone call home into an emotional gut punch. Watts’ grueling acts of survival and Christ-like suffering are the kind that earn an Oscar nomination. But it’s young Tom Holland who really shines as a glowering teen who learns to act selflessly. It’s an unaffected performance from an unfamiliar actor that feels authentic even when the film’s coincidences don’t.

The Impossibleis an earnest and exhausting experience, first physically then emotionally pummeling you into submission. Bayona has the uncanny ability to put viewers in the moment, allowing them to vividly experience the family’s struggles. But for all his formidable skills and artistic vision, his compassion is distressingly myopic. It’s easy to understand how audiences would be blindsided by the movie’s big, heart-wrenching moments; it’s hard to celebrate the triumph of a few WASP-y big-name stars while ignoring the hundreds of thousands of real-world brown-skinned locals who lost their communities, loved ones, and lives