Welcome to SPECIAL ED. Let’s begin…

Looks like Universal is repackaging a number of catalog titles as Blu/DVD combos. Some of it is worthless, some of it is great. These almost always end up at Target/Wal-Mart/Meijer for a nickel, so if you don’t have them, it might be worthwhile to seek them out. If you’re OCD like me, and can’t handle the idea of Blu discs being stored in DVD cases – don’t fret. These releases usually drive the price of the original Blu version down, as well.

The 40 Year-Old Virgin
Alpha Dog
American Gangster
Apollo 13
Backdraft
Carlito’s Way
Darkman
Dawn of the Dead
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Hot Fuzz
In Bruges
Inside Man
The Jackal
Jumanji
Knocked Up
The Last Starfighter
Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels
Mamma Mia! The Movie
Out of Africa
Pride and Prejudice
Public Enemies
Serenity
Smokin’ Aces
Spy Game
State of Play
Stuart Little
Stuart Little 2
Traffic
U-571
Uncle Buck
Unleashed
Van Helsing
Wanted
Zathura

Should you find anything compelling here, it may help that I can vouch for the High Definition image of the following titles:

Darkman
Hot Fuzz
In Bruges

The Last Starfighter – this transfer is almost revelatory. Thrill to the glory of Catherine Mary Stewart as she was meant to be seen – in High Definition.

Serenity
Wanted

These all look great, and if you’re a fan of the films, they will most definitely be worth your dinars. You have my personal guarantee that these transfers are quality.

The Jason Pollock Special Ed Blu Ray Guarantee:

If, after purchase, you are dissatisfied with the image quality of any of the above titles – you are wrong.

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE MOTION PICTURE TRILOGY

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As if there were any doubt that these would see the light of day, Warners drops the extendo LotR Blu this week. Each of the elongated versions of these fantastic films improves on the theatrical, and the transfers – unlike those of the original Blu releases – were supervised by Saint Peter and Andrew Lesnie, so they will be pretty great this time.

But…

I am loathe to accuse Peter Jackson of some George Lucas shit (and unlike fannerds who cry foul at multiple releases of this trilogy, I know the difference between filmmaker intent and studio mandate, and I can exercise enough self control to not buy something I don’t want to buy), but I remember watching the Extended Edition commentaries and hearing Peej knock more than a few of the effects shots. He has gone so far as to say that, before these films saw high def releases, some things would simply have to be fixed.

These transfers have been color-timed anew, and have been cleaned considerably – but I suspect that this release is akin to the penultimate laserdisc release of the original Star Wars trilogy, in that, to begin the notorious tweaking of the franchise, Lucasfilm had to create absolutely perfect masters on which to tinker. Once the work was done on those transfers, the thinking had to be, “Why not dump them on the market one last time…?”

Jackson has said that the LotR films are being converted to 3D, and to do so, it would make sense to completely re-master the films…probably do a 4k digital transfer…hey – we’re probably gonna’ have to tweak some of these effects, since they may not have held up…

I’m just saying…this is not the last you’re gonna’ see of these films on home video – but unlike Cap’n Croaker Sack, Peter Jackson has been utterly transparent about these matters. As beautiful as these films might look on Blu Ray now (and since they’re back in theaters via Fathom Events, you can get a look at just how beautiful), there will come a day when we will be shown something a bit more…definitive. If you buy these now, don’t cry later.

Of note: Best Buy has a Limited Edition set that features little pewter miniatures (that look a little like pieces from Noble Collection’s LotR Chess Set). It’s $100.00, if you’re interested.

SUCKER PUNCH: EXTENDED CUT

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When you read Watchmen in its entirety, you’re treated to pertinent excerpts from Hollis Mason’s superhero tell-all, Under the Hood. These passages pound on the philosophical underpinnings of the characters in the tale, as Alan Moore-as-Mason lays out the notion that, while there were masked vigilantes who were thrill-seekers, or violence-prone nutjobs, or fetishists of a sort – there were some men and women who donned the domino masks and the cowls and the capes because they felt the need to help people. Mason tried to do just that as a police officer, but quickly saw that – right or wrong (and even he’s unsure at times) – he would have to step outside the law as Nite Owl to get at some of the truly dangerous guys. Mason says that Nite Owl 2 is driven by that same noble impulse. Dan Dreiberg needs to help people.

So when Laurie Jupiter puts the hard moves on him, and he can’t manage to make with the magic, we see that it is because – robbed of what he knows to be his purpose – he has become a sad, broken, middle aged mess. Here, impotence holds heavy-handed sway in two different spheres of Dan’s existence. Poor Fractured Atlas.

Of course, after a defiant and utterly heroic rescue of NYC citizenry from a burning tenement, Dan/Nite Owl 2 is reborn. He remembers not just what it was like to be a hero – he remembers what it’s like to be a man. He is renewed – and so the couple’s second attempt at sex is a great deal more successful.

I had followed the development of the filmic version of Watchmen very closely, and was supremely excited to find that Paul Greengrass was working on updating the book’s setting and tone. I had the opportunity to read the David Hayter draft that Greengrass was going to shoot, and the changes made were, to my mind, fantastic. They were obvious shifts (we kept re-electing George W. Bush in the hopes that he could save us from the dirty bombs undoubtedly ticking away in the bowels of every parking structure in America), but they worked. The script was the foundation of a Watchmen for our time, and Greengrass would have brought it to life in visceral ways.

Greengrass, of course, abandoned the project, and the fumble was recovered by Zack Snyder.

Snyder had silenced naysayers with his remake of George Romero’s classic Dawn of the Dead. Fannerds sharpened their knives, ready to cut the the film to confetti – but instead found a redux that was of some actual merit. Granted, it could be argued that James Gunn’s sinister sprint of a script is a key to the film’s success, but Snyder had a hit on his hands, and quickly set upon another fannerd property, an adaptation of noted fascist Frank Miller’s one-note retread of The 300 Spartans, 300. I was thought mad by everyone I knew when I walked out of that film decrying it as an ugly, joyless, homophobic, xenophobic take on antiquity that much of the film’s socially-inept audience (seen bobbing their heads to the “jud-jud…jud-jud” of the film’s just-this-side-of-Numlaut Metal-score throughout the screening) would take as historic fact (you might think I’m crazy for saying something like that, but once I heard a twenty-something fe-creature wondering aloud if “that’s how it really happened” after a screening of Inglorious Basterds. As far as I’m concerned, all bets are off).

So when Snyder took on Watchmen, I was terrified. I wondered if the film would be seven hours long – not because of the epic nature of the material, but because every other shot would be in slow-motion. My fears were assuaged when I realized that, after the application of slo-mo – Snyder would speed things up to as much as 200% – nullifying the additional runtime.

It turns out that Snyder’s Watchmen was slavishly devoted to the source material. For some, that devotion lead to a film that is not much more than a cold, distanced exercise in technical cinema. For others, that devotion helped Snyder give birth to a flawless adaptation of a classic graphic novel.

There were others still who thought Zack Snyder made a butt baby.

Me – I was satisfied. It got everything right. Almost.

In the run-up to the release, the cast and director were doing tonnes of press, and I read an interview with Silk Spectre actress Malin Ackermann, who mentioned her sexy sex scene, and how it was totally about fetishism, and how these people couldn’t fuck unless they were wearing head-to-toe latex. I chalked it up to an actress being told by studio wags to sensationalize the sexuality of the film to sell a few tickets.

I didn’t start to worry until I read the same thing coming out of Zack Snyder.

And on the night I saw the film, the audience laughed at Nite Owl getting his mojo back.

Utilizing lighting, camera moves, and cutting akin to a Shannon Tweed Skinamax flick from 1991, and setting the whole thing to the terribly dry Leonard Cohen version of “Hallelujah” (Yes, I know it’s the original – but John Cale owns that song, and it gets used in so many films that the guys in Smash Mouth are like, “What the fuck, bro?”), the scene seemed to exist in the film as a paean to the awkward sexuality of a thirteen-year-old boy.

Which brings us to Sucker Punch.

Sucker Punch plays like the sex scene in Watchmen stretched to feature-length, and performed by woefully underdeveloped girls (Abbie Cornish notwithstanding) with no-nudity clauses in their contracts. This should have been a series of web shorts for download via X-Box Live (right next to James Gunn’s PG Porn adventures, perhaps), not a feature film.

Perhaps that’s unfair. On this film’s catering budget, a really great director recently made an interesting and emotionally engaging ’60s set film about the frightening misadventures of a group of girls trying to escape a mental institution.

Throughout the running time of Sucker Punch, we’re forced to ask – is this supposed to be sexy? Waitaminnit – is this supposed to be sexist? Is this what passes for female empowerment today?

I think the way Snyder’s camera does the creep on these creepily unattractive girls is decidedly not sexy. I think it’s pervy in that buy-a-schoolgirl’s-used-undies-from-a-Japanese-vending-machine way. And as much as the post-release musing seemed to wonder if that was Snyder’s intent – to force the audience to walk a line between titillation and exploitation; to make the audience feel complicit in the degradation of these girls – I think, at this point, that might be giving Snyder too much credit. When considering sexy vs. sexist, I think the filmmaker is every bit as confused as David, Nigel, and Derek when it comes down to the difference between those bits of syntax. But like the boys say – there’s a fine line between stupid…and clever – and with Sucker Punch, Snyder walks that line like he’s failing a field sobriety test.

ALL THAT JAZZ:

The 9/11 Commission Report
Above & Beyond
Bad Company: Live at Wembley

Beastly – That cute blonde girl and that boy that looks like Michael Jackson star in this Twilight-tinged take on Beauty and the Beast. I wonder if the message of this film is as totally fucked up as the Disney version? Who knows, Highlander? Who knows…

Black Moon (Criterion)
Burial Ground

Camille 2000 Extended Edition – Radley Metzger makes with the classy smut.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie – Thrill to pencil-thin anime characters standing around smoking and looking sullen. Is it any wonder Sad Keanu has been mentioned a zillion times in conjunction with a live action version?

Darwin: The Voyage That Shook the World 20th Anniversary Edition
Dawning
Deep Purple: Phoenix Rising
Rideback: The Complete Series
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season 1, Part 5
Eddie Vedder: Water on the Road
George Gently: Series 3
High School of the Dead
The Incredible Journey of Mary Bryant
Lebanon, Pa.
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy

Max Manus: Man of War – Music Box Releasing brings us this intense WWII tale from a neglected front.

Michael Flatley: Lord of the Dance

The Nesting - What? Do I have to say anything? The FUCKING NESTING. On Blu Ray.

People on Sunday (Criterion)

Season of the Witch – Not to be confused with the superior Halloween franchise entry.

Sleeping With the Enemy
To the Ends of the Earth
The Warrior’s Way
Wild Cherry
Zazie Dans Le Metro (Criterion)

AND NOW THE DVD STARTS:

MUSIC VIDEO EXPOSED: THE GROUNDBREAKING VIDEOS OF RUSSELL MULCAHY

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Russell (Highlander, Resident Evil: Apocalypse) Mulcahy is one of my favorite visual filmmakers. In the alternate universe in my heart, he’s had Ridley Scott’s career (additionally, Dennis Haysbert is President of the United States, conflicts between nations are decided by Robot Jox, Steven Seagal is the director of the CIA, every police department employs its own Batman, and I give Missy Peregrym a foot massage every day - which could happen in this universe if you call me, sweetheart). To me, he’s that good. Like many of his contemporaries, Mulcahy came from music videos and advertising, and this week, the episode of VH1’s  Music Video Exposed highlighting his career hits DVD. This presentation is not quite as elaborate as Palm Pictures’ Director’s Series, but it’s nevertheless interesting. Other releases in the series include David Mallet and Wayne Isham.

3 Backyards
2012: Ice Age
About Adam/Down to You
Alaskan Fishing
All Aboard: Great American Railroads
America the Beautiful
American Experience: The Duel
Ancient Aliens: Season Two
Ancient Astronauts: Out Extraterrestrial Legacy
Army Mega Moves
Baby
Bad Company: Live at Wembley
Baghdad, Texas
Baker King
Barney’s Version
Beastly
Beneath Hill 60
Billy the Exterminator: Season 3
Blast!
Bloodworth
Bombers
Bordertown: The Complete Series
Bringing Ashley Home
British Rail Journeys: Blaenau Ffestiniog
Chairman Mao
Christoph Von Dohnanyi In RehearsalChristopher and His Kind
Classic U.S. Combat Aircraft of WWII P-47
Cowboy Tech
Craft in America: Messages Season 3
Cyrus
David Mallet: Music Video Exposed
Dawning
Deliver Us from Evil
Delphi: Center of the World Sites Of The Worlds Cu
Dice Dominator
Dog the Bounty Hunter: This Family Means Business
The Doobie Brothers: Live at the Greek Theatre
Down In Mexico: My Dear Tom Mix
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season 1, Part 5
Eleventh Aggression
Erasing David
Fortress / Total Recall 2070
Fun with Numbers
Fun with the Alphabet A-Z
George Gently: Series 3
Giant Structures
Godfathers of Havana
The Greatest Cage Matches of All Time
Guilty Hearts
Hell’s Kitchen: Seasons 1-4
Heritage of British Monarchy
High School of the Dead
Hot & Spicy
How the Universe Works
Hunky Blues
I’m Dirty
I’m Dirty & I Stink
Immigration Tango
Impostor / Final Encounter
Infested
Jacques D’Amboise: Extraordinary Minds
John Eliot Gardiner in Rehearsal
John Muir in the New World
Keep Out
The King’s Highway: El Camino Real
Korea: Unfinished War
Law & Order: Criminal Intent – Season 6
Lebanon, Pa.
Lee Holden: Qi Gong for Self-Healing
Legends of the Silver Screen
Lion vs. Lion
Maneaters: Lions
Max Manus: Man of War
Melvin
Michael Flatley: Lord of the Dance
Mountain Massacre
Music Video Exposed: The Collection
My Fair Lady
Nature’s Wrath
Nature: Bears of the Last Frontier
Natures Treasures
The Next Big Bang
Nightmares
Ordinary Decent Criminal/Bravo Two Zero
Patricia Cornwell’s At Risk
Patricia Cornwell’s The Front
People on Sunday
The Perfect Man
Play Hendrix
Power Tools
Pure Barre: Lowry Lofts 1 Ballet Dance & Pilates
Pure Barre: Lowry Lofts 2 Ballet Dance & Pilates
Quest for Vertical Take-Off
Rammbock: Berlin Undead
Reboot: Definitive Mainframe Edition
Reboot: Seasons 3 & 4
Reviving Ophelia
Rideback: The Complete Series
Risk Takers/History Makers
Rizzoli & Isles: The Complete First Season
Roger Reynolds: Sanctuary for Percussion Quartet
Royal Jewels
The Royal Wedding Celebration
Russell Mulcahy: Music Video Exposed
Satchmo: Masters of American Music
Saving The Ocean: Shark Reef & Sacred Island
Secret Mysteries of America: Untold History
Sesame Street: Essentials Collection Learning
Sk8 Life
Skydiving
Slot Buster
Soft Drinks
Spy Planes
The Story of Queen Elizabeth I
Sucker Punch
Super Ships
Taken from Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story
Team Umizoomi

Tetsuo: The Bullet Man – These films have been awful since Film Threat Home Video was realasing them. I imagine this will be awful too.

Timmy Time: Picture Day
Tom & Jerry Value Pack
Top Ten
Tower Crane
Twin Dragons / Dragon Lord
Typeface
U.S. Open: Graf vs. Seles 1995 Women’s Final
Underwater Universe: Season 1
A Victorian Reborn
Warehouse 13: Season Two
The Warrior’s Way
Wayne Isham: Music Video Exposed
White Lightnin’
Wild Cherry
The Yards/Lookout

VARIOUS ARTISTS - RAVE ON BUDDY HOLLY

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My brother has compared tribute albums to watching a trailer for a film that you’d really rather be seeing than the one you just paid for. They become a particularly tricky proposition when you’re focused on an artist like Buddy Holly whose popularity is caught up in a distinctive sound (as opposed to, say, a songwriting worldview): you run the risk of simply emulating it on the one hand, or on the other hand, moving as far from it as possible just for the sake of doing so, raising the question of what drew you to it in the first place. What you generally wind up with is a mixed bag that makes for an up-and-down listening experience… and that’s pretty much the case here.

It’s not surprising that the most successful recordings here are the ones that hew most closely to the music’s simple strengths: She & Him, The Detroit Cobras, Nick Lowe, Justin Townes Earle, and other pop-oriented performers manage to convey the simple elegance of compositions like “Oh Boy,” “Maybe Baby” and “Heartbeat” with more than a touch of Holly’s distinctive vocal hiccup here and there; they fit so well with each artist that you can easily imagine them becoming encores at their live shows. Holly himself was a huge R&B fan, particularly of Bo Diddley, and my favorite track on the album is the standout performance of “Not Fade Away” by Florence and the Machine, with its sinuous rhythm and raucous percussion.

Elsewhere, results are more varied. Cee-Lo Green breezes amusingly through “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care,” but neither he nor Holly himself can even approach Elvis’ astonishing insouciance on the original. Modest Mouse’s approach to “That’ll Be The Day” is an unfortunate piece of deconstruction that strips away the melody and meter to the point that it’s hard to imagine the song ever having been a hit, much less an enduring classic. The “pleasant, if forgettable” category includes Karen Elson on “Crying, Waiting, Hoping,” Jenny O’s “I’m Gonna Love You Too” and “Everyday” from Fiona Apple and Jon Brion.

There are a few “first-generation” Holly fans here: Paul McCartney steps as far away from the Beatles’ gorgeous cover of “Words of Love” as possible, delivering “It’s So Easy” in a demented shout that would make Little Richard sound subtle, and following it up with a hammy James Brown-style rant that is the principal reason you’d never listen to this album twice. Lou Reed takes on “Peggy Sue” with his usual straight-ahead, no-bullshit attitude, rendering the lyrics stark and flat; he’s followed up by the album’s other low point: John Doe’s dark, doom-laden “Peggy Sue Got Married” throws one of Holly’s most beautiful melodies under the bus. And Graham Nash sends things out on a quiet, dignified “Raining In My Heart” that misses all the playful contradictions of the original.

Is the album listenable? Sure. Fun in places? You bet. But apart from cherry-picking a few individual tracks here and there, I wouldn’t spend money on it.

GILLIAN WELCH – THE HARROW AND THE HARVEST

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You don’t go eight years between albums and not have some mighty high expectations as a result. Following her “warm-up” gig singing harmonies on The Decemberists’ The King Is Dead earlier this year, Welch and partner David Rawlings return (after, evidently, several scrapped recording sessions) with their first collection of new material since 2003’s awkward Soul Journey, and the result is a comeback less loudly triumphant than quietly assured: a stark, intimate collection of songs as timeless and as enigmatic as any she’s recorded.

The opener, “Scarlet Town,” sets the tone: as with much of the music here, the tune with its minimal instrumentation could easily be a recently-unearthed Appalachian ballad, but one replete with mysteries (a narrator who has been “left here to rot away“; we’re shown a deep well and a dark grave) that are never resolved, told from beyond the grave of a “mortified soul,” who is “looking through a telescope from hell to Scarlet Town.” On “Silver Dagger”, we’re told that the singer is “on the dark side of a hollow hill” and is “through with food“; and if this suggests another voice from the afterlife, we’re left to ponder the how and the why, with Rawlings’ bleak instrumental accompaniment and Welch’s dark and sobering singing balancing perfect evocation with a determination never to reveal too much. And while the two are sonic worlds apart, there is something about the triptych of “The Way It Will Be”, “The Way It Goes” and “The Way the Whole Thing Ends” that reminds me of the mature perspective and soberly feminist/humanist underpinnings of Tracey Thorn’s brilliant 2010 Love and Its Opposite. Fortunately, The Harrow and the Harvest is constructed around so many powerful melodies that your ear won’t get tired as you dig for the answers that Welch and Rawlings so stubbornly refuse to surrender.

RED HOT + RIO 2

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In contrast to 1996’s Red Hot + Rio, which served as an appreciation of, and introduction to, Brazilian music (principally bossa nova and samba) for audiences who hadn’t thought about the music since the days of “Girl From Ipanema,” Volume 2, focusing on the relatively short-lived “tropicalia” movement, is a decidedly forward-looking 21st century enterprise, going less for the big names (no Sting, no George Michael), and focusing on artists whose attraction to the music goes deeper than singing a tribute or two: from Aloe Blacc to Beck to Of Montreal, the non-Brailizan performers here tend to be the sort who love taking different streams of great music apart and synthesizing them back into something that flows on its own. And, of course, since the profits from the album (as with all these projects) go to HIV/AIDS related charities, the political undercurrent that was inherent in the original tropicalia is reinforced: two of the album’s best-known participants, Gilberto Gil and Caetano Veloso, are among those who spent time in Brazilian prison for their political writing and activism at the height of tropicalia’s popularity.

As I say, though, for all that it draws inspiration from an important historical and artistic period on Brazilian history, the sound is very contemporary, never musty or dated; there is nothing in the least Muzak-y about it. Much of the music grooves along to voices familiar to fans of the sounds of Brazil,  like Rita Lee (of Os Mutantes), Tom Ze,  Veloso and Gil, but equally strong contributions come from names new to me, like Seu Jorge and Emicida. There are stunning contributions from Bebel Gilberto on “Acabou Chorare,” Joyce Moreno (with Madlib) on “Banana;” and following last year’s Wake Up!, John Legend continues to make me think I’ve underrated him as a singer (as opposed to a songwriter, anyway) with a wonderfully subtle vocal performance on “Love I’ve Never Known”. Blacc, in particular, shines on several tracks (notably the opening “Baby” with Alice Smith, and the briskly haunting “Nascimento” with Clara Moreno). Even the few familiar bossa nova tunes (“Aguas De Março,”‘ “Summer Samba”) are rearranged and reconstructed so that the (too?) well-worn melodies don’t jump out, but instead are perfectly subsumed into the smooth, shimmering mix. And in a nice nod back to the first Red Hot collection, Disk 1 concludes with David Byrne hooking up with Veloso on “Dreamworld: Marco de Canaveses.”

Yes, I said Disk 1, and therein lies possibly my only criticism of the album: the two well-filled CD’s run nearly two and a half hours, and about halfway through disk 2 it’s hard not feel that you’re starting to hear the same beats, the same gentle grooves over again. I’m not sure I’d listen to this one all the way through that often, but if (like me) you tend to leave your player shuffling different kinds of music all day, toss this one on there, and you’ll find yourself smiling every time one of these tracks pops to the surface.

BEYONCE - 4

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Even more so than Adele, Beyonce’s not at her most convincing playing the put-upon, put-down woman with no options. Quite apart from her looks and media omnipresence, Beyonce’s singing brims with a confidence that can explode onto the dance floor, but isn’t the greatest instrument for conveying introspection. Which is the principal reason that her latest album doesn’t get off to the best start imaginable: the first few tracks, including ”1+1,” “I Care,” and ”I Miss You,” are the opposite of the comfortable ease she has brought to her acting appearances: she’s straining for effects that she’s not achieving. I would suppose it’s mostly a bid to be thought of as “serious” in the Madonna/Lady Gaga vein, or maybe “progressive” in the way Janet Jackson once was, but they mostly feel like as much of an effort to listen to as they presumably were to record.

Fortunately, there’s more to the album than Ms Mopeypants, and when she hits her stride on stuff like ”Countdown, ”Run the World (Girls),” or  ”End of Time,” you can feel the instinctive artistry taking over: you don’t have to be a deep thinker to have something to say, and what Beyonce can say with her gorgeous voice ringing out over a well-turned beat communicates every bit as directly as “A wop baba loo bop a wop bam boom” ever did.

OTHER NOTABLE 6/28 RELEASES

Richard Thompson – Live at the BBC. I don’t have words to describe how I’m drooling for this one: 4 CD’s, all previously unissued live performances, both with Linda and solo, 18 songs never on CD before, seven more never before recorded by Thompson at all. All I need is a $60 Amazon gift card and I’m on my way!

Queensrÿche – Dedicated To Chaos. I tend to dismiss this sort of mindlessness (particularly when its ambitions to mindfulness are on the painful side), but “Retail Therapy” is at least somewhat self-aware in its crunchiness. “Hard Times,” on the other hand, is a vintage Time-Life power ballad, which may be all you need to know, for better or worse.

Dolly Parton – Better Day. It’s impressive that any woman can react with Parton’s grace and good humor to a career marked by standup comics using her name as a punchline for “big tits.” It’s particularly impressive when she’s a songwriter this intelligent and empathetic: if any woman on today’s pop music scene should be demanding to be taken seriously, it’s Dolly Parton.

Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra. Well, they’re back. And I somehow didn’t get to hear an advance copy. I will try to live with the heartbreak…

Thievery Corporation – Culture of Fear. A bit more wah-wah and 60’s vibe this time out, which is fun. I don’t know that the rap from “Mr. Lif” adds much to the title song, but Shana Halligan’s “Is it Over?” swirls with sex.

Taking Back Sunday – Taking Back Sunday. Notable for being the first album in nearly a decade to feature the complete Tell All Your Friends lineup. The harmonies are as you remember, the big guitars all in place. Sadly, though, “El Paso” is not the Marty Robbins song; now THAT would have been something to hear.

Eilen Jewell – Queen of the Minor Key. Picture a subtler Imelda May, a sassier Neko Case, or Caro Emerald’s twangier little sis. I’ve only had time for one play on this one, but I won’t be surprised if it winds up a favorite by year’s end.

Marianne Faithfull – Horses & High Heels. I’ve had this one as an import for a while; I’ve managed to come to terms with its production polish, and Faithfull really is in great voice. The originals are strong (particularly “Why Did We Have To Part?” and “Eternity”), but there’s only four of them; the covers, while certainly not obvious or overdone, are not necessarily in her wheelhouse (Jackie Lomax, easy… Patsy Cline? Not so sure). Recommended, but not without reservations.

From Bikes to Trains to VIDEO GAMES – WITH BRIAN CONDRY!

GAME OF THE WEEK:

BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL HD (PSN; XBLA)

This has been bumping around on XBLA for quite awhile. The PSN outage prevented some of us from basking in this classic’s glory. It has aged, but for the most part, quite gracefully. This is one of those games they’ll talk about when they sing the songs of Mario of his Traveling Companions of Yore. You should do yourself a favor this week; buy and enjoy one of the greats.

THE REST OF THE STORY

SUPER STREET FIGHTER IV: ARCADE EDITION (PS3; 360; PC retail)

If you already have SSFIV, all you need to do is buy the Arcade Pack off of PSN or XBL. But if you missed out on all previous entries, this pack will get you everything…minus the new costumes that they can nickel and dime you for.

RESIDENT EVIL: THE MERCENARIES (3DS; retail)

So, here’s the problem. Unless you completely change how it plays, Resident Evil is hot garbage in competitve multiplayer. Remember the add on they did for RE5? What the hell? Standing stock still to shoot a dude is really, really, really stupid. Did this change for the 3DS game? Will there ever actually be anyone else for you to play with? These questions and more, only on the Nintendo 3DS!

HALF-MINUTE HERO: SUPER MAGA NEO CLIMAX (XBLA)

Done as a kind of remake/re-imagining of the PSP original, if it’s anything like the first, it’ll be a blast.  If it’s 10 buck, it would be almost stupid to avoid purchase.

THE DROSS:

Nancy Drew: The Captive Curse (PC) – No, seriously. I am not fucking with you guys.

Sniper – Ghost Warrior plus Dynasty Warriors: Gundam 3! Oh, boy! How will I ever decide?!

Something called Storm: Frontline Nation with terrible box art and a budget price point. You lucky, lucky PC gamers.  Lucky, lucky, lucky.

ROCK BAND DLC:

3 Doors Down – Here Without You
3 Doors Down – When I’m Gone*
3 Doors Down – When You’re Young
Poison – Nothin’ but a Good Time*
Poison – Talk Dirty To Me
Poison – Unskinny Bop

* means you can buy Pro Guitar and Pro Bass modes.

So there. Thank you for coming. It’s been very useful! It’s been very useful! Rabbitsrabbitsrabbitsrabbits…

FIN.