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Teen Comedy Expelled Brings a Vine Star to the Big Screen

While it’s almost enough that Alex Goyette’s Expelled redeems its one-word title from memories of the polemical documentary where Ben Stein blames the Holocaust on the theory of evolution, this teen comedy manages to be worthwhile on its own merits.

Felix (Cameron Dallas) is an inveterate prankster whose lucky streak finally runs out. Finding himself expelled from high school and with a less-than-exemplary report card, Felix must hide both of these things from his parents (Kristina Hayes and Tom McLaren) while trying to get re-enrolled, despite the efforts of the evil principal (Emilio Palame).

Expelled wears its Ferris Bueller’s Day Off influences on its sleeve — Felix even narrates the film into the camera — but it also tones down the fantasy wish-fulfillment elements, and gives its hero an actual arc and a degree of introspection that keeps him from being an insufferable nozzle. Indeed, this kind of movie lives or dies by how tolerable the lead is, and newcomer Dallas is naturally charismatic onscreen, possibly owing to the fact that he’s made hundreds of videos on Vine.

Granted, most Vine users probably shouldn’t headline a movie, but it seems to have worked for Dallas, as does Goyette’s experience directing the AwesomenessTV sketch comedy series. Expelled isn’t going to change the world, but it’s a fun and promising debut film.

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Brandy Clark

Brandy Clark is a Nashville songwriting veteran who had given up on a solo career, until the labelhead of a tiny Dallas-based label Slate Creek Records, Jim Burnett, helped push her to release her own album. 12 Stories was practically met with glee by critics—the songs tell stories that are nuanced, often bleak takes on American life, but they’re peppered with hope and determination. Clark has an excellent grasp on her own throaty alto range, and the resulting combination has been setting the country music scene ablaze. Expect heartfelt lyrics delivered with wry passion and an undercurrent of humor. Her first single “Stripes” was a raucous, catchy number that bemoaned a cheating ex, but stopped short of jealous murder because of a distaste for prison fashion—redneck rage meets southern decorum, the perfect match.

Fri., June 20, 7:30 p.m., 2014

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A Hilarious Ride Through the Inner Workings of a Small Town Arts Council in The Most Deserving

Sotheby’s and Christie’s may have cornered the real-world market for bitchiness and backstabbing in the name of art, but in The Most Deserving, Catherine Trieschmann’s newest play, produced by Women’s Project Theater, the fictional champion lies in a small Kansas town, where the B.S. that flies among the members of the local arts council is more hilarious than anything those high-falutin’ auction houses ever crossed gavels over.

The title refers to the dilemma facing the council, which must award a $20,000 grant to a local artist of some merit. Shelley Butler smartly directs this snappy Dallas-meets-Topeka story, with outsider art, not oil, as the impetus for a power-grabbing melée that builds as unstoppably as a Midwestern tornado. The excellent cast is led by a terrific female trio: Veanne Cox as the prudish, relentlessly self-serving council president; Kristin Griffith, devastating as its straight-shooting suburban patron in pink chiffon; and Jennifer Lim as an ambitious college lecturer with a plan for getting the hell out of Dodge.

Ultimately, it’s the professor’s flawed defense of a self-taught genius that sends a more serious salvo into this heartland culture war. In The Most Deserving, art finally trumps egos, but as befits such an infamously inflated market, the ride is priceless.

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Power Trip

Taking a break from the straightforward black metal that usually makes up a Saint Vitus show, the bar tonight hosts Dallas’s Power Trip, a band that plays tortured metal overlaid with thrash. The crossover of genres doesn’t end there: Frontman Riley Gale is known for his hardcore punk growls often likened to those of Cro-Mags and Discharge. The show follows the release of the band’s debut full-length, Manifest Decimation, one of the best metal albums of the past year. Beyond that, Power Trip are known for their live show (just ask their BFFs Trash Talk) and with the raw violence of openers Suburban Scum, Manipulate, and White Widows Pact, the night should prove to be a bloody one.

Wed., Jan. 15, 8 p.m., 2014

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HO! HO! HO!

As any good New Yorker will tell you, it’s not the holidays without a naughty Christmas drag show on your calendar — and, as always, there are plenty to choose from. Tonight, Jinkx Monsoon (a winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race) and her sidekick, Major Scales, present UnWrapped (December 7–10), a bawdy holiday revue in which “two boozy and bitter queens” have their way with the season’s hits. Other shows (all happening at the Laurie Beechman Theater) include Distorted Kristmess with Dallas DuBois and “her merry band of drag stars” (through December 20), A Very Cougar Christmas with the fabulous Pandora Boxx and Sherry Vine (December 12 and 17), Happy Birthday Jesus with Drag Race favorite Alaska (December 13–15), and the acid-tongued Jackie Beat in her 15th annual holiday show, O Holy Hell (December 14 and 15).

Mondays-Sundays, 7 p.m. Starts: Dec. 7. Continues through Dec. 20, 2013

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The Polyphonic Spree

The spirit of over-the-top ’70s vocal groups like the Fifth Dimension persists in Tim DeLaughter’s Dallas-based, 22-member sunshine-pop chorus. The resilient Spree pummels its underminers with vintage pep on the new Yes, It’s True. Let’s hope the great Bones Howe gets a chance to work his production magic on these pups someday. With Harper Simon and AVAVA.

Tue., July 9, 9 p.m., 2013

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Big Tex, Icon of Texas State Fair, Burns to the Ground

Burn, baby, burn

Big Tex, the 52-foot-tall symbol of the Texas State Fair, smoldered, caught fire, and was finally engulfed in flames late last week at the fairgrounds in Dallas before firefighters could arrive and put it out. As the above video demonstrates, the process took only six minutes. The fair is famous for its pioneering approach to fried foods, and contests are held each year among concessionaires to see who can create the tastiest and most absurd.

 

Big Tex — the actual giant-size clothes are provided by a Fort Worth apparel manufacturer, with fiberglass arms and a metal frame — was celebrating his 60th birthday at the fair. Previously, he’d been a Santa Claus in Kerens, Texas, since 1949.

The statue has a 10-gallon hat that actually holds 75 gallons, and Big Tex’s belt buckle weighs 50 pounds, according to the Austin, Texas American Statesman.

The statue would speak to fairgoers via a PA system voiced from a nearby trailer, saying things like “Howdy, folks!” and “Welcome y’all, to the Texas State Fair.”

This year’s food concession fried winners included Deep Fried Jambalaya (Best Taste) and Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll (Most Creative), invented by Abel Gonzales and Butch Benavides, respectively.

Fried Jambalaya

Fried Bacon Cinnamon Roll

Big Tex is expected to be rebuilt and will be ready for next year’s Texas State Fair.

[Thanks to my brother David Sietsema for the link.]

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The BIG BANG

Last year, Riot Fest—which began in Chicago in 2005—set up shop in Philadelphia for the first time, an expansion that evidently succeeded as planned: This year, new versions of the fast-and-loud festival are sprouting up in Toronto, Dallas, and Brooklyn, where globe-tripping gypsy-punk madmen Gogol Bordello and SoCal skate-core lifers the Descendents will headline an all-day show at Williamsburg Park. Also on the bill: post-hardcore rockers Hot Water Music, on tour in support of their first album since 2004; New Brunswick sludge popsters Screaming Females; and the Bronx, who in fact hail from Los Angeles.

Sat., Sept. 8, 2 p.m., 2012

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Magic Mike: A Star Is Bared

When Channing Tatum stood up and revealed his bare ass to the camera a minute or two into Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike—which the actor conceived of and produced based on his own experience as a teenage dancer in an all-male exotic revue—the audience in my screening burst into a near-unanimous extended cheer. The gifts that made him a viable exotic dancer at age 18 have recently made the 32-year-old Tatum the male movie star of the moment. His appeal is based on working-class humility paired with otherworldly charisma, an impossible body, and the intelligence to make his use of it seem effortless. Now, as then, he never fails to give us what we paid to see. But what is he really revealing? The highly calculated Magic Mike is pure Hollywood self-mythology—a neo-Depression musical, a wish-fulfillment fantasy for shitty times, an origin-of-the-star story, and a projection of that star’s hoped-for future.

Tatum’s Mike is the main attraction at Xquisite, a Tampa pop-up strip club whose male dancers cater to an all-female clientele. Stripping is just one of wannabe furniture designer Mike’s many jobs; on a roofing gig, he’s assigned to mentor scrappy newbie Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a 19-year-old rebel with neither cause nor clue, who recently fucked up a football scholarship and sought refuge on the couch of his shit-together sister Brooke (intriguing newcomer Cody Horn). Mike, his own career peaking at age 30, takes pity on the penniless Adam and brings him into the Xquisite fold. That seems to be the way things go around there; Mike himself was discovered on the street by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the club’s manager/main hustler, who keeps talking about moving the show to Miami and dangling equity in front of his stars to keep them invested. As young Adam embraces this new world of easy cash and responsibility-free pussy, Mike, natch, increasingly wonders if there’s a different/better life available to him, particularly because neither the fetching Brooke nor a bisexual academic played by Olivia Munn seem inclined to see a male stripper as anything but a fuck buddy.

The film suggests that the ladies’ prejudices are valid. “Who’s got the cock?” Dallas asks Adam during his first dance lesson. “You do. They don’t.” The idea that these Kings of Tampa, as members of the ragtag strip crew call themselves, are giving the local housewives and sorority girls something they don’t have and desperately need is stated several times in earnest dialogue, but the actual transactions are shown as farce. (The movie’s cruelest joke is snuck into a wacky-times montage: One of the dancers lifts an eager fat girl out of the crowd . . . and throws his back out.) That this film contains an ironic patriotic Fourth of July dance spectacular—with McConaughey as Uncle Sam leading a brigade of topless boys in fatigue pants in choreography belaboring the connection between automatic weapons and anatomical ones—is a given, right? No less spectacular than this sleazy homage to Holiday Inn is the scene in which Tatum dons upstanding-citizen drag to apply for a small-business loan. Told his low credit rating brands him as a “distressed” client, Mike fires back: “I read the news. I know the ones in distress are y’all.”

Occupy Chippendales? If only. The few moments wherein Magic Mike calls American institutions into question are undercut and overshadowed by the film’s dated insistence on the dream of legitimacy. Mike and friends move in a cash-only society, hitting a glass ceiling any time they try to pass in the straight world. This milieu, typical and unremarkable in so much current European cinema, is given in Magic Mike a retrograde, cautionary spin. In this under-the-table economy, it’s a slippery slope from cruising Craigslist for day-labor gigs to showing one’s ass for tips to big-money drug deals. Eventually, someone drives away from the strip club in tears, not because this is a plausible turn of events for the character, but because that’s what has to happen in a Hollywood movie about the sex industry.

An extremely conventional backstage story, Magic Mike is occasionally enlivened by Soderbergh’s aesthetic curveballs—the halo-shaped lens flares suggesting Adam’s halcyon view of the club; a long night of debauchery with major plot consequences rendered as an experimental study in color and shadow. But the denouement, built around the hoariest of contrivances concerning the cyclical nature of stardom, squarely casts its lot against self-commodification, by extension damning the margins and endorsing the mainstream.

That throws a wet blanket on the movie’s primary point of interest: its self-reflexive portrait of three distinct points in the Hollywood himbo life cycle. As the still ogle-worthy old-timer, McConaughey is Magic Mike‘s most wasted asset. Dallas’s onstage patter incorporates the actor’s most identifiable catchphrase—”all right, all right, all right!”—which he injected into the popular imagination via Richard Linklater’s Dazed and Confused. In that film, McConaughey’s Wooderson was the older guy who continued to hang around teenagers, almost vampirically. Twenty years later, McConaughey is essentially performing the same function here. But why? At the most fascinating moment in his career, McConaughey gets stuck in an underwritten role that demands physical exposure, but is (sorry) only skin-deep.

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If You Google Searched “Snooki Nude” In The Last Four Days, You’re Letting The Terrorists Win (We’re Looking At You, Dallas)

Much to your dismay, we’re sure, nude photos of Jersey Shore star “Snooki” have surfaced and currently are making the rounds on the Internet. Snooki, as you know, is more of a punchline than an actual person — often ridiculed for her “meatball”-esque appearance and Jersey-like demeanor. That said, there’ s been a huge spike in Google searches for the keywords “Snooki nude.”

In other words, despite how revolting the general public seems to find Snooki, we still want to see her naked — especially those in Dallas and Kentucky.

A company spokeswoman tells the Voice that Google doesn’t provide specific numbers when it comes to how many people search particular keywords. However, she directed us to Google Zeitgeist, which tracks trending search keywords.

Zeitgeist doesn’t provide the number of people who have searched for certain keywords, but compares how many people are searching for
specific words on a given day, month, or year and compares it to the average number of searches for those words. It’s pretty useless when
trying to determine how many people actually are searching for “Snooki nude.” However, it shows the geographic location of where the searches originate.

People in Dallas, it turns out, want to see Snooki naked more than anyone else in the country. The other top five cities that actually want to see Snooki naked include Washington D.C., Chicago, Los Angeles, and Houston. New York was sixth on the list.

As for states that want to see the self-proclaimed “meatball” in the buff, Kentucky tops the list, followed by Oregon, New Jersey, Arizona,
and Iowa.

See the entire list here.

Snooki, as you know, is a cultural terrorist. Her assault on all that is decent and good has stretched from the Jersey shore, to Florida, and
even to Italy — where she and her “guidettes” made Americans look like complete and utter douchebags.

As you may also know, Snooki is fueled by attention — even if that attention comes from nude pictures of herself floating around cyberspace, which is why her reps were quick to confirm that the photos actually are of Snooki.

That said, we all have the collective power to stop Snooki — if we all band together and just ignore her, there’s a good chance she’ll melt like a Gremlin that’s been exposed to the sun.

We realize this article isn’t helping the cause, but sometimes you gotta break some eggs — and after this post, we vow to not give Snooki even a sliver of attention ever again. We can only hope our colleagues in the Fourth Estate follow suit.