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Issue of 7/23/2008

Cover Story:

Hard knock life
by Bill Holdship
Lessons learned and applied from a newly storied Motor City trio


A tweak in tough times by Curt Guyette
Rethinking shortened grace periods in the midst of a mortgage meltdown.

Acting up by Norene Cashen
Renaissance man Jeff Daniels on his plays, music and his upcoming appearance in Detroit

City of possibilities by Rebecca Mazzei
Exhibit shows why Berliners embrace the Motor City

Muppets, Music and Magic by Serena Donadoni
The legacy of Jim Henson sparkles at the DFT

Tax bumps and rolls by Curt Guyette
The importance of being Wayne County treasurer

The X! Factor by Chris Handyside
The third annual X! Fest spotlights a special brand of Detroit-based chromosome-deranged punk noise


Comics (Comics)

Couch Trip by Metro Times staff (Couch Trip)
A Flemish horror gross-out, Andre Techine gets boxed, and a dung-ready massacre

Food Stuff by Metro Times food staff (Food Stuff)
Full plates for local foodies.

Fish story by Jeff Broder (Grilled)
Talking with June Cross of John Cross Fisheries.

Black and white TV by Jim McFarlin (Idiot Boxing)
CNN's race relations series examined; more Fanchon sludge

Letters to the Editor by Metro Times readers (Letters to the Editor)

Jeffrey Morgan’s Media Blackout by Jeffrey Morgan (Media Blackout)
Where comics and hot rods get together

Motor City Cribs by Doug Coombe (Motor City Cribs and Rides)
Custom-bike guru Ron Finch's Auburn Hills studio

Night and Day by Megan O'Neil (Night and Day)

On the Download by Chris Handyside (On the Download)
Passports? We don’t need no stinkin’ passports!

Stupak's stand by Jack Lessenberry (Politics and Prejudices)
Yooper congressman pushes for regulating oil speculators.

Only skin deep by Dan Savage (Savage Love)
Girl says she's ugly; Dan says things will look better.



Wait, Skeleton - Chris Bathgate Reviewed by Aaron Shaul (Record)


Tell No One Reviewed by Jeff Meyers (Movie)
French actor-turned-director Guillaume Canet's French-language suspenser is taken from a American pop potboiler by crime novelist Harlan Coben. And, oddly enough, that overseas adaptation may very well be the thing that makes the film’s convoluted and overwrought plot work so beautifully. Pediatric resident Alex Beck (François Cluzet) and his wife Margot (Marie-Josée Croze) are the perfect couple: childhood sweethearts who continue to adore each other in marriage. One terrible night while vacationing at their secluded lake house, the two are violently and inexplicably attacked. Alex is left for dead while Margot disappears screaming into the darkness. Fast-forward eight years. Alex, now a pediatrician, is haunted, still struggling to cope with the loss of his wife. Suddenly bodies are discovered on his property, leading the police to suspect him of being behind her murder. Then Alex gets an impossible e-mail, sending him on a elaborate hunt to find out what happened that night and who was involved. Needless to say, lots of skeletons start tumbling out of the family closet.

Mamma Mia! Reviewed by Serena Donadoni (Movie)
This movie version was made by the creative trio that spawned the wildly popular musical a decade ago in London. Whatever might be lost in the translation from stage to screen, the movie gains in veracity and impact. When single mother Donna (Meryl Streep) helps her 20-year-old daughter Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) prepare for her wedding day. Sophie’s wedding means the arrival of her mother’s former singing partners (the scene-stealing Julie Walters and Christine Baranski) to the Greek isle of Kalokairi, along with three men who shared a summer of love with the adventurous Donna. But which one is Sophie’s father? Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård are charming as the befuddled, would-be papas, their impulsive holiday turning into a surprise life assessment.

The Last Mistress Reviewed by Serena Donadoni (Movie)
Set amid the Parisian aristocracy of 1835, this adaptation of Jules-Amédée Barbey d’Aurevilly’s novel Une Vieille Maîtresse is a stunningly beautiful period film, classically elegant and steeped in literary conventions. Although it contains elements of her previous movies (the manipulative maneuvering of Sex is Comedy and ingrained cruelty of Fat Girl), The Last Mistress is in thrall to Vellini (Asia Argento) and Ryno (Fu’ad Aïd Aattou), lovers whose bond is as conspiratorial as it is unbreakable. Argento, with her earthy masculinity, and Aattou, with his ethereal femininity, are magnetically drawn together, oblivious to scandal. There’s a resignation to their decade-long coupling, a mutual acknowledgement of the primacy of their unspoken vows, without the expectation of pleasure.

Divorce Italian Style Reviewed by Serena Donadoni (Movie)
The Sicily of director Pietro Germi’s 1961 black comedy Divorce Italian Style has an impossibly sunny face and a bitter heart of darkness. Baron Ferdinando Cefalù (Marcello Mastroianni) is narrator, protagonist, and embodiment of everything wrong in the society he both mocks and manipulates to his own ends. Known as Fefé to his overbearing family, the Baron is nearing 40. He has become obsessed with his teenage cousin Angela (Stefania Sandrelli), and hatches an intricate plot to murder Rosalia. The twist here is that the Baron expects to get caught: He plans to steer his wife into the arms of another man, and then use “crime of honor” as his legal defense. His reasoning is two-fold: divorce was illegal at the time, but the status-conscious Fefé realizes that as a cuckold who kills a cheating wife, he would not only receive a shorter prison sentence, but he’d also become a local folk hero.

The Dark Knight Reviewed by Jeff Meyers (Movie)
Picking up shortly after his Batman Begins (that is, early in the caped crusader’s career), Nolan presents Gotham’s dark knight (Christian Bale) as both a source of hope and concern for the city’s denizens. While crime is down in the corrupt metropolis, his actions have inspired less-capable copycat “Batmen” vigilantes to take the law into their own hands while mobsters band together in mutual survival. Into this powder keg steps two new players, Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), an incorruptible D.A. with a real shot at cleaning up Gotham, and the Joker (Heath Ledger), a freakishly sadistic lunatic who promises to assist the beleaguered criminals but offers only ever-increasing chaos. As the violence escalates and innocents die, the Joker offers Batman a way to end the madness: take off his mask and turn himself in. Less a contest of wills (though there’s plenty of that), the Joker, it turns out, is waging a war for the soul of Gotham. Heath Ledger plays his twisted clown as a vicious and calculating monster who is committed to nothing less than the unraveling of society. He’s as unreasonable as he is unknowable, a point cleverly made clear in a series of ever-changing monologues about his “troubled” past. It’s a remarkable performance that drives the entire film and demonstrates the remarkable range this tragic young actor had yet to exploit. Ultimately, there’s so much that’s good in The Dark Knight it’s a shame that its missteps undermine its bid for masterpiece status.


Franco's Cafe Reviewed by Mel Small (Restaurant)
This neighborhood restaurant has been quietly turning out respectable meals for a generation or so from a prosaic strip mall on Rochester Road. In a simply decorated, dimly-lit room that seats 120, you can enjoy heavy red-sauced dishes with the pastas averaging around $13 and the other entrées around $18 including soup and salad. Franco’s hearty pastas, which include such familiar preparations as ravioli, spaghetti carbonara, fettucine Alfredo and linguini with clam sauce. Among the pesce, the crisp and tender sautéed shrimp scampi over rice laced with olive oil and just the right amount of garlic is a well-executed dish. You can wash all of this down with reasonably priced wines, with the house pours, some Californian some Italian, going for $24 a liter.