Tuesday 22 Jul

Manmade Objects - Monuments

No one wants to be forgotten; everyone wants some sort of legacy, a mark they leave behind as they exit this life for whatever lies beyond.

And for as long as there has been death, there have been monuments — whether austere or understated, abstract or concrete, prominent or tucked away in private — erected by the ones they loved to assure that remembrance, at least for a time.
07/15/2014 | Comments 0

Admirals - Amidst the Blue

Sometimes it helps to not be very good.

Some of the best albums and artists were born out of happy accidents owed to varying degrees of early suckage — the perfect note or chord for a song found by missing the one you are aiming for, failed mimicry of an idol bearing something entirely new and great instead.

07/09/2014 | Comments 0

Kierston White - Don't Write Love Songs

The Tequila Songbirds have become just as beloved as about any group around these parts. And how could they not?

Featuring a revolving cast of the Sooner State’s most badass female performers, it’s a power hour of some of the best songwriting coming out of central Oklahoma. Sure, they might not technically be family, but they are clearly a band of sisters all the same, bonded by the same brand of whiskey running through their veins.

07/01/2014 | Comments 0

Depth & Current - Dysrhythmia

"Overproduced" is a term thrown around all too indiscreetly nowadays, usually applied when the thing that sticks out about a song or album is how it sounds rather than how it is constructed. Yet some of the most compelling albums ever crafted embodied a certain aesthetic that was just as skillfully and meticulously put together as any Bob Dylan or Miles Davis record — which is to say production is as crucial to our enjoyment of music as much as anything else; it's also the most overlooked.
06/24/2014 | Comments 0

Weak Knees - “IceBevo”

Indie rock has been in a good place as of late. Not caring about being cool is the new cool, and a couple of dudes on guitar, bass and drums can make catchy, earworm songs without being armed to the gills with computer software and vintage synthesizers.
06/17/2014 | Comments 0
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Despite a few moments of inspiration, 'Despicable Me' is disposable stuff

Phil Bacharach July 15th, 2010

Among the pop-culture treasures of Mad magazine is its venerable "Spy vs. Spy" series. With its two saboteurs hell-bent on doing each other in, the comic strip is a wry send-up of dastardly high-tech espionage. "Despicable Me," a new computer-generated, 3-D animated movie that involves a pair of adversarial supervillains, is at its best when seeking to replicate that scrappy vibe.

But "Despicable Me" is about 90 minutes longer than it would take most Mad connoisseurs to buzz through a page. So the filmmakers also borrow elsewhere to fill things out and satiate the summer appetite for kid-friendly fodder. It's not for nothing that the movie pilfers from Pixar, the gold standard of animated film.

The main character bears a resemblance to the food critic from "Ratatouille." A little orphan girl is a stand-in for Boo from "Monsters Inc.," and the bad guy appears to be the love child of Bill Gates and the diminutive costumer from "The Incredibles."

But "Despicable Me" isn't alone in stealing from the Pixar canon. Screenwriters Ken Daurio and Cinco Paul ("Horton Hears a Who!") rejigger the heartless-grows-a-heart plot of Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and snag a big-finish dance number from the "Shrek" playbook.

The "Me" of the title is Gru (voiced by Steve Carell, "Date Night"), a hunched, straw-legged, Russian-accented supervillain whose most notorious thefts include the Times Square Jumbotron and a faux Statue of Liberty. Not surprisingly, such heists pale beside those of a hot new baddie on the scene, the nerdy Vector (Jason Segel, "I Love You, Man"), who has swiped the Great Pyramid of Giza. The competition sends Gru, more sensitive and insecure than your run-of-the-mill criminal mastermind, into a tailspin, and he resolves to get back in the game by stealing the moon.

For that, however, he needs a shrink ray in Vector's possession. Through a tortured plot contrivance, Gru adopts three little orphan girls Vector has allowed into his fortress-styled house because they sell a type of Girl Scout cookie he likes.

A mean-spirited villain with no use for children? A trio of cute orphans? What do you think could possibly happen here?

Despite the predictability of its cut-and-paste screenplay, perhaps the most surprising thing about "Despicable Me" is how accomplished it is once you set aside the story. Its animation, a cross-pollination of "Looney Tunes" and Charles Addams, has a hyper-caffeinated stylishness that almost compensates for the labored slapstick. When the funniest bit is a pun on a fart gun " or did you mean "dart" gun? " you've got trouble.

Moreover, directors Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud have the good fortune of some gifted voice performers. Carrel manages to imbue Gru with a vulnerability beyond the tired neglected-child flashbacks provided by the script, while Russell Brand ("Get Him to the Greek") admirably tamps down his oversized persona as Gru's go-to inventor, Dr. Nefario.

Most inspired of all are the "minions," Gru's scores of yellow, marshmallow-shaped, goggle-eyed helpers. These creatures are tailor-made for crass marketing, but they're undeniably amusing. Here's hoping for more minions " and fewer everything else " in the inevitable sequel. "Phil Bacharach
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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