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Tuesday, Dec 11, 2007

As cut-backs in movie and book reviewers happen in more and more publications, cultural critics are left to scratch their head over what’s to be done and how to shore up the field.  This story line kept popping up before the recent layoffs, going back to the pros vs. bloggers wars that have been played out in the last few years.  No surprise that this is going to continue to play out and that there’s continual hand wringing over it- one of the best articles was this one from the Hartford Courant.  I also particularly liked this review from the New Republic, which notes the pitfalls of the life of the reviewer and some sage ideas about how to maybe save and cultivate the profession.


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Monday, Dec 10, 2007

From a comic book in hand wafts the scent of history; on those cheap pages, illustrated in bright colors, muscular detail, and terse language are captured a country’s pride and might, its fears and paranoia. Well, a country’s state of mind from a particularly boyish point of view, that is. This is the book for those who remember that smell fondly. It collects the highlights of Marvel’s history; its art, its artists, and its reproduced tangibles that every geeked-out kid wanted (a membership card in the Merry Marvel Marching Society to Peter Park and Mary Jane’s wedding invitation). It also covers (with the help of Captain Marvel, Spider-Man and others) the business end of the Marvel comics industry. This really cool book will appeal to the elder, who remembers spending his allowance on comics, yes, but also the coming of age pop culture geek with nary a trace of fuzz on his upper lip, nor a zit on her chin.


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Monday, Dec 10, 2007

The year is 1962. The setting is Baltimore. Tracy Turnblatt (newcomer Nikki Blonsky) is a plus-sized teenage optimist who is out to solve the problem of racism with dance. Tracy is obsessed with The Corny Collins Show, a variety show that exasperates her mother Edna (John Travolta – playing role in drag originated by Divine in John Waters’ 1988 film of the same name). When the chance comes to be a performer on the show, Tracy jumps at it, and gets a spot on the program, winning everyone over with her moves and her heart. Everyone except, of course the villainous Von Tussells, mother Velma and daughter Amber (played by Michelle Pfeiffer and Brittney Snow, respectively). Director Adam Shankman colorfully updates Waters’ version, and the recent stage production in what will make a delightful gift for those of us who were not among the most popular in high school.


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Monday, Dec 10, 2007

Almost every gamer out there either misses the LucasArts heyday or knows someone who does. The Monkey Island series, Day of the Tentacle, heck, even Loom... these are all classic games for their time, all of which used a point ‘n click interface that only truly made sense on a PC. Of course, perhaps the greatest of these adventures was Sam & Max Hit the Road, a crazy little adventure featuring Steve Purcell’s unforgettable characters that was just difficult enough and hilarious enough to be memorable. To date, the exchange of “Do you mind if I drive?” “Only if you don’t mind me clawing at the dashboard and shrieking like a cheerleader” remains one of the funniest moments in gaming history. Those longing for the halcyon days of LucasArts will find everything they’re looking for in Sam & Max: Season One, a six-part serial game that retains every bit of both the humor and the skewed sense of puzzle-solving logic that makes the series great. Plus, if you buy the whole shebang, you can get it on DVD with a case and everything, not to mention a bunch of fun little extras, including a gag reel. And really, every game based on animated characters should include a gag reel, right?  Right.  [Find Sam & Max at Telltale Games.com.]


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Monday, Dec 10, 2007

Vee-Jay: The Definitive Collection launches an upcoming reissue campaign of compilations and original albums from Vee-Jay’s vast catalog (here’s hoping they reach into the label’s considerable stores of unreleased material). To say it’s an education—not only into the label’s history, but also into the growth of American popular music—is an understatement, as the roughly-chronological set reveals how the label played a part in the development of multiple genres. It’s especially interesting to hear the smooth sounds of doo-wop glide into equally smooth R&B and Southern soul.


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