Tuesday, December 14, 2010

THIS JUST OUT: Mario's-despicable-Michael-Jackson-All-Stars edition

Posted on Tue, Dec 14, 2010 at 12:41 PM

Michael, Michael Jackson

Let me say this right off the bat: I am not a Jacksonologist, a Jacksonophile nor a Jacksonian Democrat.*

I am a reader of English words who can, at times, even comprehend the squiggly characters processed by my brain. The press release accompanying the album's release, which promises fans "mind-blowing insight into how this artist worked and a chance to hear the songs he most recently created along with tracks Michael had a desire to bring to fruition," leaves out one very important important detail: Dude's dead. That means, even if he really wanted to bring some tracks to fruition, he didn't (because he's dead), and he also did not release the other "most recently created" tracks (because he's dead). Like him or lump him, you cannot argue that Michael Jackson did not release these tracks.

But demise, timely or otherwise, has never stopped recording artists from releasing tracks. Heck, Selena has released almost twice as many albums posthumously as she did when she was alive. Of course, when your biggest asset as a recording artist was (according to Quincy Jones) being a workaholic who wouldn't let any tracks go until you were absolutely convinced it was finished, well, it doesn't bode well for the quality of your post-death releases.

Then again, a guy who sold 35 million albums in the 12 months after his death probably doesn't have to worry too much about sales of any posthumous records. Well, at least his label doesn't, anyway. His legacy is a whole different story.

  • Kandi Koated, Kandi — I'm very tempted to put a moratorium on listing any albums by people who clearly can't spell their own names properly, but how in good conscience could I deprive you of the knowledge that one of the "stars" (we're using that term very loosely) of The Real Housewives of Atlanta is putting out a new album? I couldn't, that's how.
  • Love Letter, R. Kelly — R. Kelly is  known for his sex scandals and his involvement in a brawl that left one dude with 115 facial stitches,** while his music speaks to a rather strange sexual fascination with food (from "In the Kitchen" — "Sex in the kitchen/over by the stove … Put you on the counter/By the buttered rolls … Said the sign outside the door say the restaurant is closed/And we'll be cuttin' up tomatoes/fruits and vegetables and potatoes"). But he did inspire one of the best South Park episodes ever ("Trapped in the Closet"), and for that, he has a free pass.
  • Waiting Outside The Lines, Greyson Chance —  You know what? I don't even care if this kid is any good. I refuse to listen to this on principle, that principle being that a 13-year-old has absolutely nothing of value to sing about. He's not old enough, he doesn't have the life experience to say anything beyond perhaps "Fractions are hard" and "I used to want to smack her, now all I want from her is a smacker."*** It's not even about letting kids be kids, though that's important, too. It's about not exploiting young talent before it can be developed into a mature, signature style, and not taking things that are famous on YouTube and then throwing millions of dollars at them in the hopes they can produce more money. The haircut is another rant entirely.
  • The Damned Things, Ironiclast — This album gets my vote on cover art alone. Though I do find it amusing that at least one reviewer had to go to the lyrics to figure out the band is obsessed with death. As if puckered-skull George Washington wasn't enough of a tip-off. ---

Despicable Me

I still like this movie. It's a got a great cast (Steve Carrell, Kristen Wiig and Jason Segal), a mildly imaginative setting and three impossibly adorable orphans. It's got the requisite animated slapstick humor, a few humorous asides and plenty of exaggerations for the effect of comedy. It's even got a heart at the center of the story — sort of.

The one knock most people have on non-Pixar animated movies is that they lack a warmth, or genuine connection. Dreamworks is getting better at it (Over the Hedge and Flushed Away are great), but they seem to have backslid since they tried for the big kahuna with Bee Movie.

The problem with Despicable Me is the manner in which the transformation of Gru (Carrell) is handled. It's literally the linchpin to the whole plot: His overcoming his nebulous, unarticulated interpersonal relationship problems (it's implied that this had to do with a lack of affection from his mother, but this goes way beyond) is what drives the entire second half of the movie. The bulk of this miraculous transformation occurs over the course of a theme park montage that takes about two minutes. And, like most movies that attempt to tack on an emotional storyline, it feels hollow. Carrell and the aforementioned adorable children do have the requisite diabetes-inducing sweetness necessary for their "scenes" together, but there's no actual connection. The climactic scene, wherein Gru has to ask the eldest to trust him, is missing one thing: Any reason at all why she should.

All that said, it's not a bad movie (and certainly better than recent Dreamworks abominations, like Bee Movie or the majority of Shreks.). It's just not all that it could be. I wouldn't call it despicable; rather, just lamentable.
  • The Town — Ben Affleck plays a gruff, blue-collar guy from Boston (I KNOW, GREAT ACTING, RIGHT?) who falls in love with a girl who manages to see past his stubble and general scruffiness. I'll let you insert your own "other Ben Affleck movie this description could also fit," as you have so many choices.
  • The A-Team —A lot of people didn't like this movie, for reasons I can't fathom. Stuff gets blowed up, plans come together and fools are pitied. What else could you possibly want of an A-Team movie?
  • The Other Guys — Will Ferrell plays a loud-mouthed incompetent with an impossibly hot wife (no, it's not Talledega Nights 2) who has to deal with typical buddy-cop situations in hilarious fashion. This buddy-cop parody was a lot funnier when it was called Hot Fuzz (and it was, y'know, actually funny)..
  • Cyrus — Dark comedies tend to do badly at the box office, because trailer cutters don't know how to sell them properly. They always include the slapstick-y stuff you expect from a Will Ferrell movie, even though that's not the point at all — thus, when the audience sees it, they get a movie completely different from what they were expecting. This has a little bit of the same vibe as Seth Rogen: Mall Cop (or whatever that non-Paul Blart movie was called), but with a slightly darker (and less violent) undertone.
  • Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole — This doesn't really count as one of the movies on the list. It's more of a public service announcement, so you can protect your children.

Super Mario All-Stars

Nintendo gussies up a bunch of 20-year-old games with a fancy red-and-crappy-tarnished-gold box, a soundtrack CD, a 32-page "book" on the history of Mario, and a $30 price tag.

It's less than super. Especially when you could buy all of them, individually, on the Virtual Console for 2,000 points (where 2,000 point cards sell at retailers for $20). 

The book, while it contains a few level designs and notes from Shigeru Miyamoto himself, is boring. And the "soundtrack" CD includes only 10 songs (the names of which are in the original Japanese, just to ensure you have no idea what you're playing) and 10 sound effects. (Because it's so hard to download "small Mario jump" as a ringtone...)

There are a few level designs and notes from Shigeru Miyamoto in the book, but it certainly doesn't carry any of the festive atmosphere that apparently went into creating it — "the way everyone came together to work on this was like a party," says the general manager of Nintendo's Entertainment Analysis and Development Division Software Development Department. Then again, the NEADDSDD's parties might be something less than the swinging affairs I'm picturing after passing out trying to pronounce its name in one breath.

  • PS3 Move Blaster Combo Pack (PS3) — As you can probably tell, since the first one is a fake plastic gun attachment for your Move, this is a weak week for game releases. (Sorry, two fake plastic gun attachments.)
  • Sackboy's Prehistoric Moves (PS3) — For those who can't wait for Little BigPlanet 2 (and spent oodles of cash on a Playstation Eye and Move system), here's some DLC to tide you over.
  • X-Men: Arcade (PSN, XBLA) — I remember playing this game at the local pizzeria, though I'm pretty sure the $10 price is more than I ever spent on it in quarters. Then again, I was always partial to Sega Rally.
  • Learn Science (NDS) — An educational game?! That's it, this blog post is over.
* That is, I prefer appointed judges rather than elected ones and a far weaker executive branch.
** How on earth can you fit 115 stitches on someobody's face? How is there even enough skin left to justify that many stitches?
*** Clearly, this would be a country song.

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