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Underrated / Overrated

August 30, 2009

UNDERRATED

The maturing of Patton Oswalt: We've long been a fan of this comic's smart, surreal wit, but his new CD/DVD set, "My Weakness Is Strong," shows us something unexpected: growth. With frank -- and frankly hilarious -- talk about parenthood, depression and success, and a darkly dramatic turn in the upcoming film "Big Fan," Oswalt's developing into more than his former title as a "Comedian of Comedy."

Allen Toussaint's 'The Bright Mississippi': It's tempting to think that after so many years in music this pianist-producer could just rest on his reputation, but instead he surprised us with a brilliant album of rich, mostly instrumental jazz. With backing from heavy-hitters such as Nicholas Payton, Marc Ribot and Joshua Redman, there's so much New Orleans history here it should come with a bowl of gumbo.

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OVERRATED

The cocktail renaissance: Yes, we're very excited that foodies have branched out in their beverage choices in an ongoing quest to flash some gourmet cred. But seasonal organic apricots and hand-crushed ice delivered by sleigh from Iceland don't make a $14 drink go down any easier. The economy may be in recovery, but our untrained palates are still fine with a shot and a beer, thanks.

The mainstreaming of mixed martial arts: While we realize that society may always demand a competition as simple as determining who's the toughest, we never thought that we'd pine for the comparative elegance of a Don King-promoted boxing match. After catching some highlights of this new brand of televised ultra-violence, we're filled with visions of Rome, and not in a gallant, "Gladiator" sort of way.

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