Film

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius (2001)

Jon and Rachel Munn

Full-length computer-animated features have, thus far, fallen into the realm of children's fantasy.


Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius

Director: John A. Davis
Cast: (voices of) Debi Derryberry, Rob Paulsen, Carolyn Lawrence, Patrick Stewart, Martin Short
MPAA rating: G
Studio: Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies
First date: 2001
US Release Date: 2001-12-21

Sometimes I just can't help measuring a film I'm watching against other pictures in the same genre. In the case of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, the genre is that of the computer-animated feature. Now, I know what you're thinking: this isn't a genre, but a medium (computer animation), applied to feature length narratives. Technically, you're right. But this new medium has, so far, pretty much set its generic parameters as "kids' fare." So far, computer animation has been applied to fairy tales involving toys, bugs, ogres, and the like. With the exception of last summer's Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, full-length computer-animated features have, thus far, fallen into the realm of children's fantasy.

And within this realm, Pixar and Dreamworks have compiled an impressive roster of films. Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Monsters Inc., Antz, and Shrek are all, in my opinion, quality pictures. The animation in each is colorful and detailed, and the stories are clever and witty. Most importantly, they're children's fantasy films that can be enjoyed by adults as well. And I think the mark of a good children's film is a film that isn't dumbed down, but rather captures the magic of child-related things (toys, monsters, bugs, and so on) in a way that is widely appealing. As I sat in the theater waiting for Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius to begin, I found myself wondering how the film would "stack up" against the few, but particularly accomplished, other computer animated films that have been released in the seven years since Toy Story broke that new ground in 1995.

Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius is a fantasy about a whiz kid inventor who, with the help of his friends, must rescue all the parents of his neighborhood from the clutches of malevolent space aliens. While there's nothing new here story-wise, producer/writer/director John A. Davis, producer/writer Steve Oedekirk, and animation director Keith Alcorn, load the film with a lot of cool inventions (a shrink ray, a robot dog, a soda that guarantees one burp per sip) and some funny moments involving Jimmy (voiced by Debi Derryberry) and his classmates. Primary among them is the asthmatic Carl Wheezer (Rob Paulsen) and the smart-alecky Cindy Vortex (Carolyn Lawrence). Together, the kids connive to rocket off to another planet and turn their egg-shaped foes to slime: one method involves slapping a pair of headphones on an alien and blaring The Go-Gos at full volume (could anyone avoid internal combustion listening to Belinda Carlisle at full volume?).

But as a whole, the film lacks the quality of story, character, humor, and animation that we've come to expect in the seven short years of computer-animated film history. Davis and Oedekirk try to inject some warmth into the tale by having Jimmy overcome his diminutive size, realizing that his mind is what really counts (pay attention kids: there's a message there), but the character development feels contrived and takes a backseat to the rapidly paced plot. This plot does its best to entertain with a constant barrage of wacky antics concerning kid empowerment (they're saving their parents, after all) and peppered with slapstick humor that is often of the gross-out variety (boogers, burps, slime, and flatulence).

But hey, it's for kids, right? And kids don't care about things like character development, as long as the story is fun to watch. For a more illuminating look at this aspect of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, I'll turn to my 12-year-old sister Rachel, a PopMatters veteran (see her review of Recess, and please stop sending her so much fan mail, as it's beginning to go to her head), who will give her opinion on the film:

Jimmy Neutron was a cute movie and it was pretty funny, but I think it's more of a movie for kids aged 3 to 10. I would recommend it, though, because it has a good storyline. Monsters Inc. is kind of similar to Jimmy Neutron, because both deal with funny characters on a wild adventure, but Monsters Inc. is better because of its characters.

And there you have it.

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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