So there’s extended Black Friday/Cyber Monday (seriously, follow that link and be SAVED) stuffins happening all over the webbins. Barnes and Noble’s Criterion sale is still running, and you can buy the really awesome special edition of A REALLY AWESOME MOVIE for a really awesome price – and it’ll arrive in time for Christmas.

As for the new stuff…

EXPENDABLES 2

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Is it a more coherent (if not less cliched) script that elevates this entry? Is it a director not comprimised by scheduling conflicts and ratings concerns? Not at all. The unduly vilified Simon West (the fannerds taking shots at this guy will more than likely never make an action film as wonderfully goofy as Con Air, or a thriller as well-assembled as West’s remake of The Mechanic) was, by most accounts, up against a wall in terms of scheduling and script (and it also sounds like Sly’s steamrolling collaborators again) – but he manages to deliver a slightly more satisfying film than the original, because he is blessed with an enchanted weapon the last film did not have. J.C.V.D. is magic.

Eyh like simble. Seh dis? Deh Goht. Eet ees deh pet off Siten…soh deh seh.”

Let’s mek sam MANNNEHHHH!”

And they did. But boy, I sure hope they get Harrison Ford for Expendables 3 – especially now that he can’t actually control the volume of his voice (though I’m sure his role will basically amount to him saying “GET OFF MY PLANE” seven or eight times)…

GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES

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When I first started watching Anime, it was 1991. And while there was no shortage of insipid shows/films/OVA with characters screaming at one another, then unleashing balls of glowwy energy amid speed lines – there was also THIS.

A terrifyingly effective portrayal of Japanese life and death in the aftermath of World War II, Fireflies is, stylistically and thematically, unlike so much of the screamy, fighty, SUUU-PAAA RA-PEY Japanese cartoons so popular now. No one plays magic monster card games in this film, it isn’t about fanciful steam-powered bullshit, and wan, disaffected ladydudes don’t stand around smoking, so I probably can’t convince the modern anime fan to take a look – but it is my hope that those of you who appreciate an attempt to transcend the medium’s boundaries might be inclined to give this great film a chance.

HEAVEN’S GATE (CRITERION)

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Michael Cimino’s indulgent/opulent western nearly murdered its studio, but Voyager believes the time is right for a reappraisal, and so here we are. Will it be as compelling as a new look at Ang Lee’s Ride With the Devil? Who knows, Highlander. Who knows…?

American Warships
Ancient Aliens: Season 4
Baka & Test: Season 1
The Beach Boys: Live in Concert 50th Anniversary Tour
Christmas Comes Home to Canaan
Cinderella 2: Dreams Come True/Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time
The Dust Bowl
The Expendables 2
Grave Of The Fireflies
Hard Core Logo/Hard Core Logo 2
Heaven’s Gate (Criterion)
Intrigue in the Bakumatsu: Irohanihoheto Collection 2
Inuyasha the Final Act: Set 1
Led Zeppelin: Celebration Day
Pete Walker Collection
Ramrod
Santa Paws 2: The Santa Pups
Soul Eater: The Complete Series
Tajomaru Avenging Blade: Live Action Movie
Tarantino XX – same old transfers slathered in uninspired Mondo art. There are some talking head featurettes as an added value, but it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth the price point.
That’s Entertainment! The Complete Collection
Tony Bennett: The Zen of Bennett
The Trap
WWE: The Attitude Era
Zorro

GRAHAM PARKER AND THE RUMOUR – THREE CHORDS GOOD

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In 1979, Graham Parker’s “You Can’t Be Too Strong” was an astonishingly penetrating, intelligent, and sensitive look at the pain associated with abortion; no one was exempt: not the man, not the woman, not the doctor, not society at large, and Parker left it up those of good faith to “decide what’s wrong.” Thirty years on, he’s watched such attempts to bridge the pro-life/pro-choice gulf curdle into the politics of poison, once more driving women back into dark corners with “Coathangers,” the furious first single from this reunion with his old band. Parker’s gimlet eye and searing rage are also laid bare on “Snake Oil Capital of the World” and “A Lie Gets Halfway Around the World,” while The Rumour’s backing remains punchy and strong, able to slip from R&B to rock to reggae with an ease that never feels forced, but not afraid to strut when it’s called for (“She Rocks Me,” “Live in Shadows”). Parker’s voice may have grown a tad thinner over the years, but neither his singing or writing will ever lack for gruff honesty:  “I thought I was a cold, cold man / As a writer you need to be.

VARIOUS ARTISTS - JUKEBOX MAMBO: RUMBA & AFRO LATIN ACCENTED RHYTHM & BLUES 1949 TO 1960

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Every few months, it seems like we get to “re-discover” some musical movement or phenomenon that we came along before any of us were born: this time around it’s the snaky Cuba-by-way-of-Crescent City rhythms of the Mambo and Rumba (the booklet will nicely take you through the differences and similarities), taking over ballrooms and radio stations in post-WW2 America. While Latin musical influences are most often associated with the vintage recording studios of Noo Yawk (represented here by the likes of Cozy Cole and Faye Adams), this compliation nicely broadens its perspective, with artists from both coasts, the deep south, and flyover country all present and accounted for. There’s really not a duff cut in evidence, but while the groove is inescapable throughout, there’s extra delight in the plaintive wail of Elena Madera’s “Pu-Chun-Ga,” or Adams’ spooky “The Hammer”; and for those looking for an overlay of weird, Mad Man Jones sings “Snake Charmer” as though Screamin’ Jay Hawkins had swallowed him whole.

HAL GALPER TRIO – AIREGIN REVISITED

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As a strong followup to 2011’s Trip the Light Fantastic, Galper, bassist Jeff Johnson, and drummer John Bishop, wrap their collective three-headed muscularity around Sonny Rollins’ title song, but not before opening with an eleven-minute “Embraceable You” that on its own would serve as a challenge to the Mehldaus and Tepfers of today’s jazz scene. From the carefully ragged stumbles that open “One Step Closer” to the deeply thoughtful “Melancholia” to the boisterous good fun of “Conception,” this is ensemble playing that shares the purity of a singular artistic vision.

OTHER NOTABLE 11/20 RELEASES:

Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes – Eric Burdon & The Greenhornes
Darkthrone – Blaze in the Northern Sky
Doubt – Mercy, Pity, Peace & Love
The Evens – The Odds
Fatboy Slim – Big Beach Bootique 5
David Garrett – Music
Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin – Instrumental Tourist
Incite – All Out War
Amanda Jenssen – Hymns for the Haunted
Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded – The Re-Up
Thrice – Anthology
The Twilight Sad – No One Can Ever Know: The Remixes
Sven Vath – In the Mix: The Sound of the Thirteenth Season
Robbie Williams – Take the Crown

HITMAN ABSOLUTION (PC, PS3, 360)

If nothing else, the Hitman franchise has always been a series of fun little murder simulators. The games work to make you feel like the titular depraved badass by letting you figure out all the creative ways to kill your marks. At its best, Hitman is unrivaled in what it does. Nothing beats stealthing in, setting up a Rube Goldberg-ian Device of Death, and walking out unnoticed as your mark bites it.

Wii U

This thing launched. I didn’t pick one up because I’m poor and I already own over half the launch games on other systems. So, in lieu of having anything of substance to say about the Wii U, I’ll just list the launch titles and make snarky remarks:

Assassin’s Creed III – I don’t care about Assassin’s Creed, but the Wii U version does have some interesting features.
Batman: Arkham City Armored Edition – Even my dad has beaten this by now. I watched him do it.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II – Because everyone plays Call of Duty on Nintendo systems.
Chasing Aurora – I don’t know what this is.
Darksiders II – I do know what this is – it’s a not very good game.
Disney Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two – Sucks.
EA Sports FIFA  Soccer 13 – For Europeans and douchy hipsters.
ESPN Sports Connection – Could possibly have the distinction of being Wii U’s first shovel ware title.
Game Party Champions – Unless this hit the shelf a few seconds earlier?
Just Dance 4 – This will sell more Wii U’s than Mario.
New Super Mario Bros. U - They should probably drop the “New” moniker by now. But Mario in HD is the reason to buy the system.
Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge – they only way this game could be fixed is by being a reskinned version of Ninja Gaiden 2 – for the NES.
Nintendo Land – I’m running out of snarky shit to say about stuff I don’t care about.
Rabbids Land – See above.
Scribblenauts Unlimited – In this game you can make a giant Cthulhu fight a rabid Polar Bear while Mario launches.
Sing Party – A must-own for anyone with more than 3 cats.
Skylanders Giants – I’m sorry, parents of America.
Sonic and All-Stars Racing Transformed – Race furries!
Tank! Tank! Tank! – (Jet! Jet! Jet!)
Tekken Tag Tournament 2: Wii U Edition – It has Mario costumes – yay?
Transformers Prime - It’s non-Bayed Transformers and somehow still doesn’t interest me.
Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013 – I buy all my new consoles to lose weight.
Warriors Orochi 3 Hyper – At least Tecmo is smart enough to know that the only time anyone is going to buy an non-Dynasty Warriors game is at a hardware launch.
Wipeout: The Game 3 – Don’t listen to the lie. Wipeout the Game is about driving and blowing up floating cars.
ZombiU - Props for spelling it “Zombi,” at least.

And there you go. Guess Nintendo is the big winner this week, eh…

FIN.