Who lives in a pineapple under the sea, and has done so for a decade? One Mr. SquarePants, that’s who, and he is celebrating his tenth anniversary with this 14-disc mega set that includes every episode through Season Five. In addition to collecting the episodes with guest stars like Johnny Depp and Gene Simmons, the set includes the documentary Square Roots: The Story of SpongeBob SquarePants. Spongey is a pop-culture icon for all ages, and this set proves it. If the $117 price tag at www.barnesandnoble.com is too much, there is also the $11 SpongeBob’s Greatest Hits CD featuring 16 of the squishy one’s best songs.
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Along with Vertigo and Psycho, North by Northwest is indeed the seminal suspense experience. It makes brilliant use of the everyman lost in a world of intrigue and danger ideal, and then amplifies the prospect by making Grant’s Thornhill more adept at these spy games than the villains. True, it takes a lot to show up James Mason and Martin Landau (getting a lot of mileage out of underplaying their roles), but this is Archibald Alexander Leach we’re talking about, the dashing, debonair superstar who more or less gave birth to the mainstream man crush. Grant agreeably gives his greatest performance here, at times both cosmopolitan and comically clueless. Just watch the scene where a completely inebriated and barely coherent Thornhill is trying to tell the police what happened to him. It’s a master class in bridging the gap between post-modern believability and studio system shtick.
As the introductory entry of the Master onto the new digital format, Warners works wonders with the North by Northwest blu-ray. The picture presentation is immaculate—clean, sharp, and loaded with detail. Indeed, there is no arguing with the 1080p transfer. The sound has also been remastered, giving Bernard Herrmann’s memorable score a whole new level of epic urgency. There are also some fascinating added features here, including the Lehman commentary, an hour long documentary on the making of the film, as well as a look at Cary Grant’s career and Alfred Hitchcock mythos. But it’s the chance to see North By Northwest as it was initially conceived—original aspect ratio and as close to theatrical quality as the home video domain can deliver—that really makes this masterpiece a must-own. One can only imagine the kind of optical bliss awaiting blu-ray remasters of Rear Window, or even better, Vertigo.
Look, it’s flat out wrong to be checking out Superman’s cousin this way. Sure, she’s dressed skimpily, but Supergirl is not just a piece of Kryptonian meat for you to drool over.
Oh, is the super-hearing deafening shield on? OK then, this 10-inch model of the super heroine is super sexy, and the makers at Japanese manufacturer Kotobukiya are to thank. You might be inclined to take a bullet for her, even though she can stop those on her own.
And as a final note, yes she’s an alien, but no, she won’t marry you for her green card.
In many ways, Anti-Pop Consortium’s most bombastic album yet should’ve been their coldest and most inaccessible. It is dominated by battles between man and machine, flitting between the inaccuracies of the heart and the cool precision of their musical backing, but at no point are we decided on a winner. The rumoured conflicts that resulted in the group’s hiatus prior to recording Fluorescent Black probably didn’t help (though they seemingly turned out to be totally false), and the result is a restless, economic, smooth, and daring hip-hop record. Ballsy on “Volcano”, beautiful/violent on “Born Electric”, and fidgety beyond belief on “Capricorn One”, this is Anti-Pop Consortium at their most eclectic and unified, both musically and personally. Because these conflicts pervade so much of the whole, the entertainment factor is massive, and they are still leaders of the alternative pack.
It wasn’t supposed to work. It wasn’t even supposed to happen: following A Sunny Day in Glasgow’s 2007 debut, founding vocalists Robin and Lauren Daniels got sidetracked by personal matters and bassist Brice Hickey landed in the hospital with a broken leg. The finished product, recorded largely with replacement singers, squashed 22 tracks into a shape-shifting hour, populated by obscured hooks, half-formed ideas, and spare parts. All of which belies Ashes Grammar as a work of extraordinary beauty. Core players Ben Daniels and Josh Meakim oversaw the record like hawks and sculpted it into a floral dream-pop paradise designed to heighten the senses. Everything seems to have been drawn from a canon of sensual music, built according to a strangely fitting logic. Drums switch between an acoustic kit and a programmed bass thump from the Mille Plateaux school of 4 a.m. clubbing; shoegaze guitars morph and reappear from different angles; choral chants melt into melodic swoons sourced from who knows where. It’s a place of thrilling, almost limitless possibility, whose colossal length gives the impression that it has no boundaries. We’re meant to cross into it, drink in its aroma, and take the chance that its abundance of riches might really be glistening with sharp teeth.