“So…what’s goin’ on?”
“Not much. What’s new with you?”
“Ah – not a whole lot – but the CRITERION COLLECTION SALE IS HAPPENING AT BARNES AND NOBLE.”
ALFRED HITCHCOCK: THE MASTERPIECE COLLECTION
So finally some corporate lines have been crossed and deals have been made and a flood of the master’s masterworks arrive in an exciting box set that speaks to every movement in his grand career.
A very similar set – missing only North by Northwest (but let’s face it, if you didn’t already buy that the day it came out, why would you be interested in buying this?) – will be available shortly for region-free purchase from Universal in the UK.
Why am I telling you this? BECAUSE THE UK SET IS ALMOST ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS CHEAPER.
There is, however, an issue: rumors (or rumours) persist that the set is compromised in some fashion. Apparently there were some restoration and mastering issues. I can’t speak to that, but I can tell you that I recently purchased my Universal Monsters Essential Collection from the UK (for the fun alternate packaging – it came in a coffin), and the prints and masters are exactly the same – and they’re glorious. The UK set will arrive next week – delayed so that these issue could be addressed – so if you’re not in a hurry, we can examine the set together and see if things turned out okay…and then you can save yourself a hundred bucks.
Will Ferrell does George Bush and Zach Galifianakis plays a weird dude with a weird beird. They run against each other in a silly local election that gets blown way out of proportion. I’ve read mixed things, but I’m always willing to give these demented bastards a look.
METALOCALYPSE: SEASON 4
The tale of Dethklok is a grand tapestry that speaks to the nature of celebrity, the price of fame, the sinister nature of power, and the ignorance of the masses with equal parts intelligence and contempt. (Metalocalypse and The Venture Bros. – and perhaps Black Dynamite – are the only “Adult Swim” entities that feel as though they’re actually written for and by adults. Everything else seems constructed to appeal to drug-addled toddlers with attention span issues). It’s also quite often hysterically funny. What one wonders as the show stomps bloodily forward is if Brendon Small and company have an endgame in store for us.
ROSEMARY’S BABY (CRITERION)
Not a fan of this film. I don’t buy the reality, so I don’t buy the fear. I much prefer Repulsion. And Tisa Farrow (or at least her body of work). But I know that many of you adore this Polanski creeper, and so it’s important to me to let you know that it’s making its Blu bow today, with the quality you’ve come to know from Voyager.
WWE PRESENTS – BROCK LESNAR: HERE COMES THE PAIN
Brock Lesnar. He looks like Mel Gibson knocked off Master Blaster’s helmet. His 300lb frame is topped by the bellowing, inarticulate cranium of a mongoloid with the face of a newborn. How anyone in the World Wrestling Entertainment organization saw money to be made here is beyond me, but the WWE is nevertheless hawking a video package hoping to make a return on the investment. Wonder if the set will delve into Lesnar’s brain-dead idiotic decision to quit wrestling to try to play in the NFL (despite having never played football before). I wonder if they’ll explore his half-assed Mixed Martial Arts career – in which he used his 80lb weight advantage to steamroll guys until that stopped working. It will, of course, chronicle his sad return to the world of the grapplins, where his lack of charisma and inability to speak have once again stymied him. Now, in this world of quick-witted performers and agile athletes, he’s just one more uncoordinated, lumbering fucktard throwing unconvincing fake punches. Brock Lesnar is proof they do stack shit that high.
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection
Andre Rieu: Home for the Holidays
A Christmas Story 2
Chuck: The Complete Series
Copper: Season One
Fafner: Heaven and Earth Movie
Greed in the Sun
Hellsing Ultimate: Volumes 1-4
House of Dark Shadows
Il Barbiere Di Siviliga: Rossini: Teatro Regio Di Parma
Jillian’s Travels: Africa 3D
Kaufmann/Rey/Widmer/Metzmacher/Zurich: Humperdinck: Konigskinder
Long Day’s Journey into Night
Majikoi – Oh Samurai Girl: The Complete Collection
Max Fleischer’s Superman: Collector’s Edition
Metalocalypse: Season 4
The Money and Soul of Possibility: The Complete Series
Night of Dark Shadows
Reef 2: High Tide
Rosemary’s Baby (Criterion)
Safety Not Guaranteed
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians
Taxi For Tobruk
Tosca: Puccini: Teatro Carlo Felice
Un-Go: The Complete Collection
Wagner: Der Ring Des Nibelungen
Brock Lesnar: Here Comes Baby Huey
NOW I HAVE SOME CHRISTMAS ALBUMS. HO – HO – HO
TRACEY THORN – TINSEL AND LIGHTS
The intelligence, perspective, maturity, and musical power that Thorn brought to 2010’s Love and Its Opposite seemed to be a function of crafting an album of her own songs, rather than hewing to the dictates of men like Ben Watt and Paul Weller. Turns out that was only part of it: she expresses the same quiet strength and coolly adult judgment in assembling an assortment of songs whose “holiday” themes can feel elusive, but whose overall effect is a perspective on the season that evokes a nostalgia that is warm, but never cheap; while being very much of the moment. Apart from two originals, and “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas,” Thorn collects material from a wildly diverse group (including Sufjan Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Stephen Merritt, Randy Newman, and the White Stripes), and shapes them into a song cycle that encompasses both the desire to hold onto the child’s wonderful vision of the season (“Joy”), as well as a wry willingness to accept a modern Christmas’ more limited virtues (“Something almost true was in the air“). And her duet with Green Gartside on Low’s “Taking Down the Tree,” highlights a song that deserves to join “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve” and “Auld Lang Syne” as a final farewell to the season. And the album sounds just as good on a warm October afternoon as it will on a chill December evening.
CeeLo GREEN – Cee Lo’s MAGIC MOMENT
The journey from “Fuck You” to “Silent Night” is certainly impressive, and while my occasional exposure to “The Voice” reveals Green as a major irritant on TV, I can’t deny that Lady Killer was a high point my 2010 listening. So, basically, I’m prepared to be won over. And in spots, he manages it: “This Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” and “White Christmas” hit the sweet spot of secular fun and old-school spirituality that the Motown groups used to bring to this music. But the musical concept of “Christmas” spreads a pretty wide net, and there’s plenty of reach-exceeding-grasp here (including, oddly, a take on Joni Mitchell’s “River” that sits several notches behind Thorn’s). It’s hard to decide which duet partner sounds less effective here: Christina Aguilera, a capella cheeseballs Straight No Chaser, or Rod Stewart. But, then, it’s the rare holiday album that doesn’t sport a few clunkers, and Green’s batting average here is certainly higher than that of, say, the Detroit Tigers.
VARIOUS ARTISTS – HOLIDAYS RULE
Or “A Coachella Christmas”: we get Sir Paul for the fogeys, and a slew of hot hipster faves, including Calexico, The Shins, and The Head and the Heart. Unsurprisingly, the rootsier performers manage a connection with the music that eludes many of their peers: The Civil Wars’ “I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day” and Punch Brothers’ “O Come O Come, Emmanuel” are sublime reminders of the power that devotional themes can still have for performers steeped in tradition. That said, there’s plenty of egg noggy hipness as Rufus Wainwright and Sharon Van Etten duet on “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” soulful devotion on Irma Thomas’ “May Ev’ry Day Be Christmas,” a gentle farewell in Andrew Bird’s “Auld Lang Syne,” and the opening version of “Sleigh Ride” by .fun is… well, fun.
LAURIE BERKNER – A LAURIE BERKNER CHRISTMAS
My limited exposure to Berkner has found her to be among the most tuneful and tolerable of children’s entertainers, with enthusiasm that never feels forced, and a willingness to let the kids that join her be goofy in a natural way. And she brings the same qualities to this collection. I don’t know that your Christmas collection needs it, but if someone gives your kids a copy, you should find it relatively painless.
ROD STEWART – MERRY CHRISTMAS, BABY
Every time this aging satyr releases another piece of E-Z listening cheese, I have to close my eyes, and remind myself that Gasoline Alley and Every Picture Tells A Story were not simply lovely, long-ago dreams.
OTHER NOTABLE 10.30 RELEASES:
Andrew Bird – Hands of Glory
Black Country Communion – Afterglow
Cody Chesnutt – Landing on a Hundred
Cradle Of Filth – The Manticore & Other Horrors
Keith Emerson Band – Three Fates Project
Flyleaf – New Horizons
Robert Fripp & Theo Travis – Follow
Macy Gray – Talking Book
Calvin Harris – 18 Months
Manu Katche – Manu Katche
Toby Keith – Hope On The Rocks
King Crimson – Lark’s Tongues in Aspic, 40th Anniversary Edition
Sean Price – Mic Tyson
Bobo Stenson Trio – Indicum
Thrice – Anthology
The Velvet Underground – The Velvet Underground & Nico 45th Anniversary / The Verve/MGM Albums (box sets)
Neil Young with Crazy Horse – Psychedelic Pill
ASSASSIN’S CREED (PS3, 360)
The second Assassin’s Creed game was one of my favorite surprises of this generation. After a conceptually interesting but mediocre first attempt, they really nailed it the second time around. As the franchise was annualized and the franchise’s new-found promise was swept away in favor of sticking to the same time/place, I gave less and less of a shit. But here we are now – free of Italians. The promise of insane historical conspiracy theories and parkour is fresh again. And yes, the idea of a game set during the American Revolution is enough to sell it. While the underlying fiction of Assassin’s Creed is undoubtedly…interesting, I couldn’t care less about the convoluted inner workings of its world. For me, a franchise spanning history and maintaining narrative and mechanical consistency is a grand enough undertaking on its own. The actual gameplay is largely the same. It’s prettier. A bit faster and a bit bigger. But it’s still Assassin’s Creed. You just get quests from Ben Franklin and murder redcoats this time.
ASSASSIN’S CREED: LIBERATION (Vita)
This game gets points for having a female protagonist who isn’t a sex symbol (yet), and her African heritage – which actually plays an important role in the game. Considering the amount of buff white guys that inhabit games, this is a refreshing development.
Still…this is another Vita game that wants to be a grown-up game. I don’t know when Sony is going to understand that Vita owners want experiences they can only get on the handheld.
And for me lately, that experience has been watching Netflix on a sexy OLED screen. Liberation is not going to be the game that changes that.
NEED FOR SPEED: MOST WANTED (PS3, 360, PC)
Clarence “Razor” Callahan is back on the run again and it’s up to you…fuck. Nevermind. Razor Callahan isn’t in it this time. Why would I want to play Most Wanted without Razor Callahan?
Because it’s from Criterion. Not the one film geeks worship, but the one racing fans do. Criterion is the company responsible for the Burnout series and the best Need for Speed in the last 10 years. Much like Burnout: Paradise, Most Wanted is an open world arcade racing game. Unlike Paradise, it’s kind of a small and featureless open world. In just a few hours, I’ve cleared over half the single player missions and found more than half the secrets. Although there is less of it, what’s there isn’t any less fun. The cops are a terrible addition that are more an annoyance than a feature, and the acquisition of cars is streamlined and frankly weird. You find a parked car and ‘jack it’ to add it to you collection, but it doesn’t actually move. Whenever you want to switch to that car, you are transported to its place on the map, which could be anywhere. It’s a little disorientating and not nearly as rewarding as past titles. But gripes aside, it’s a solid driving experience with that Criterion touch.
I haven’t put much time into the multiplayer. But what I have played has been full of sick jumps and smashing the shit out of people. So it’s pretty much awesome.
And there you have it. Happy Halloween, weeners. And to our friends on the East Coast – stay safe.