Every Tuesday, all the latest video games, DVDs and CDs are released, taunting you with their entertainment possibilities. In order that we might entice you further into wasting your hard-earned money on pointless gimcracks, here's a run-down of what's out today. (Read previous posts.)
Hypocritical Oaf, Doug Benson
What? You missed Benson's show at the Knitting Factory back in August? You're a terrible nephew, and that's why you're not getting any Kwanzaa presents this year. Luckily, you might be able to salvage your Hanukkah haul by buying Benson's latest CD, which technically plopped (his term, not mine) last week. He's largely known for his marijuanic tendencies (read: he's a pothead), and his credits include his documentary Super High Me, his TV series The High Road, his current "Pot the Vote" comedy tour (which aims to help increase turnout in California for Prop 19, legalizing marijuana), and his satirical take* on John Cage's 4'33", titled 4'20". (I only made up one of those.) Hence, it should come as no surprise the album was recorded on 4/20, or that significant portions of the album concern cannabis. But there are also plenty of clever riffs on abbreviated culture, McDonald's breakfasts (Hey, I did that last week!) and a strange recurring bit about Buffalo Bill. Oh yeah, and pot.
- Kaleidoscope Heart, Sara Bareilles — As a practitioner of something called cabaret pop (seriously, why bother having genres if you can just make ‘em up as you go along?), Bareilles found some mainstream success with a song off her last album called “Love Song,” a Garofolesque protest song. Now, in her third album, she’s not exactly looking to shatter any preconceptions you may have. Her music is still, for the most part, soft and easygoing, letting the lyrics do the heavy lifting. But since the words were always her strong suit, it’s probably a good plan.
- Imperfect Harmonies, Serj Tankien — The former System of a Down frontman’s second solo project is a serjical strike (ugh, I feel dirty) against the mind-control of the corporations … or something. A college freshman’s rage against the bourgeois, there’s plenty for teenagers to glom onto in this release. New rule: If you use the word “corporatocracy,” I don’t have to take you seriously. If you use it in a song title, it’s justifiable homicide.
- Prepare for the Preparations, Ludo — It’s Ludo, y’all! I have no comment on the band’s alleged musicality (they sound like a brass-less ska band), but I do have to give props for this album cover. Also, I almost guarantee “Cyborg vs. Robots” was written solely for inclusion in the next Guitar Hero release, on the basis of both content and the ridiculous picking.
- Mean Old Man, Jerry Lee Lewis — A follow-up to his last album, The Last Man, Mean Old Man is full of lyrical delights such as “If I look like a mean old man, that’s what I am.” This album of duets includes collaborations with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Tim McGraw, the Red-Headed Stranger … Really, he’s got everybody but his cousin featuring on this album.
- Interpol, Interpol — It doesn’t mean anything that the band waited 13 years and four full studio albums to come out with an eponymous disc, right? I mean, it’s not like they’re flailing in the marketplace because their last disc sold fewer than half as many albums in the U.S. as the previous two and they’re trying to play off the historical value of the band’s name or anything. ---
DVDs The Norm Show, Full Series
Did you know Norm McDonald, star of Dirty Work, Screwed, and a few seasons of Saturday Night Live, had his own sitcom? Neither did anyone else. Though the show lasted three seasons, it was never really much of a hit. Probably because the plots were nonsensical and the opening title (a cartoon that features Norm for about two seconds) bore absolutely no relation to the content of the show, but can tell these things? The show's saving grace is it was written in Norm's signature style (which makes sense, since he was one of the writers), and the dialogue is hysterical. Trust me, just look past the whole "Norm (Henderson, for some reason) is a former professional hockey player who's convicted of tax evasion and has to work as a social worker (because that's totally legal and social workers don't need training at all)" premise and enjoy hilarities such as, "Why can't we have sex with a client? It's not like we're psychiatrists ... or undertakers." Just go with me on this one.
- MacGruber — The "rule of three" is one of the fundamental building blocks of comedy. Basically, there's a recognizable pattern that repeats itself across jokes — think of things like the "priest, minister and a rabbi" jokes. MacGruber, and SNL in general, take this repetitive instinct to heart. After all, the original MacGruber sketches took a single premise and parlayed it into roughly 90 sketches (not an exaggerated number) based around the same joke (MacGruber is the anti-MacGyver). Apparently laboring under the delusion that the only thing missing to make the sketches funny was length, they expanded the 15-second, one-joke sketches into a 90-minute movie. Hint to aspiring satirists: It's not a parody of bad movies if you just go out and make a shitty movie with references to things people know. See Movie, Epic; Movie, Date; Movie, Disaster and their ilk for more information.
- The Office, Season Six - A mixed season at best, Six still gave us the very sweet Pam & Jim wedding (with accompanyingly epic Office rendition of the wedding entrance to "Forever," which I'm pretty sure has replaced "Here Comes The Bride" at real weddings and "Sweet Transvestite" at weddings held in Vegas). Other highlights included the birth of Jim & Pam's son (and the great volleyball game setup for that episode), the introduction of Kathy Bates as the new owner, and the "Whistleblower" finale. Lowlights included the whirlwindingly confusing Andy-Erin relationship, Dwight's descent into actual psychosis and the worst device ever invented for television: the clip show.
- Killers — When I heard they were thinking about doing a reboot of Mr. and Mrs. Smith a scant five years after the original came out, my immediate thought was they were looking for cheaper actors than Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in the starring roles. Then I found out Killers wasn’t a remake but a rather awful knock-off (much in the same way Punk’d is not a remake, but a cheap imitation of the Canadian short film Kicked in the Nuts). Originally I was going to see this movie in the theater, because I figured it was all some elaborate ruse to punk the entire country. At some point, I thought Ashton Kutcher would turn to the camera, break the fourth wall and say, “Oh man, you just paid $10 to see me in a serious acting role? My friends, you just got PUNK’D!!!” followed by some air kicks and wild jabs. But even an appearance on national TV wouldn't make up for giving Ashton Kutcher $10.
- Solitary Man — Michael Douglas, probably the only person in the world who could pass for either Saddam Hussein or Bill Clinton, stars as an oily jerk (‘cuz he’s a former car dealer!) who lands in prison after a shady business deal — so it’s nice to see Douglas expanding his range. The movie, which by all accounts is not terribly engrossing, follows Douglas as he attempts to rebuild his life. The saving grace comes from the character himself — an all-consuming portrait of a man who goes through life leaving a trail of wreckage and devastation behind him.
- Boy Meets World, Seasons One-Three — I’m not allowed to disparage this show lest I be shanked by the Calendar Editor, but I think it’s OK if I point out that Boy Meets World, like Saved by the Bell, suffered from a case of permanent adolescence. No matter what school they were in, the characters never grew up (emotionally). Then, of course, there's the middle school teacher who gets a job as a high school teacher who then retires before deciding to take classes at a university and then is offered a teaching position there. Yeah, that happens alllll the time.
- Free Willy Collection - They made four of those damn things? How many times must the whale jump the kid before the concept jumps the shark? My count: one.
VIDEOGAMES Kingdom Hearts: Birth By Sleep
In a completely unrelated story, I actually saw my PSP sitting in a dusty corner of my room a few months ago. It’s not that the thing has seen a recent drop-off in time I’ve spent playing: I think I’ve only spent a grand total of four or five hours on the thing. It exists in such a strange place along the gaming continuum — underpowered for true gaming, but it’s too bulky to just be throwing in your pocket for some bus-ride love. Maybe this’ll be the one that brings it out of retirement. The original Kingdom Hearts and the sequel remain the only RPG games I’ve actually been able to get through, largely because the RPG elements are almost ancillary. Though this is technically a prequel, one hopes it’ll be able to keep my attention until the release of Epic Mickey, or, at the very least, the third Assassin’s Creed.
*If 4‘20“ actually existed, I imagine it would be four minutes, 20 seconds of exhaling. Or giggling.
- NHL 11 (X360, PS3) — Ways in which video game football is better than video game hockey: More scoring than a World Cup soccer game, personalities you can actually recognize, takes you back nostalgically to grand old football games in autumn rather than freezing indoor arenas filled with frozen water. Ways in which video game hockey is better than video game football: No Madden. Pretty much a toss-up.
- Spider-Man: Shattered Divisions (X360, PS3) — Remember those several different Spider-Men that exist simultaneously? Yeah, me neither. But all four incarnations of the web-slinger are back for this game, because what’s a little narrative inconsistency when you can make more money by including a multiplayer function? And everyone knows the best part of a Spider-Man game is being stuck on a linear track rather than a far-flung New York that allows you to swing on the wind.
- R.U.S.E. (X360, PS3, PC) — I understand the overabundance of WWII first-person shooters. Really, I do. I like mowing down Nazis to save the world as much as the next guy — maybe even more so, considering I bought and played Turning Point: Fall of Liberty. But a real-time strategy based on WWII seems … pointless? Either you’re going to be doing the same things they did in the war, in which case it’s a one-to-one simulation and thus boring, or you’re going to be able to do wildly different things or have wildly different scenarios … in which case, why bother setting it in WWII at all?
- UFC 2010 (PSP, PS3, X360) — It seems strange that ultimate fighting, which is literally founded upon the idea that anything goes, would be so popular in video game form, which by its very design limits the number of possibilities. I mean, sure, you can probably create a 40-button combo to grab the dude’s middle finger on his third hand, twist it backwards until he pokes himself in the eye, then use the momentary arching of his back in pain to grab him about the neck and flip him into the cage, but what if you wanted to add in your own twist — say, biting the finger off or something? It’s the lack of originality that gets me.