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Underrated: R.E.M.'s 'Live at the Olympia,' 'Community's' Ken Jeong; Overrated: Bob Dylan's Christmas album; Holiday season creep

November 22, 2009

R.E.M.'s 'Live at the Olympia': One of the more distressing musical developments over the last decade has been R.E.M.'s tumble into mediocrity. This live "rehearsal" doesn't solve where Michael Stipe and Co. go next after 2008's promising "Accelerate," but it's wonderful to hear them burn through deep cuts like "Wolves, Lower" like the young, hungry band we once knew.

'Community's' Ken Jeong: We're not entirely sure about this show -- the smugness of Joel McHale's character is off the charts and his will-they-or-won't-they romance with Gillian Jacobs is tiresome. But Jeong has us hooked as an unhinged Spanish teacher who seems to get more hilariously surreal each week. It's good to see Jeong's manic scene-stealing gifts intact post-"The Hangover."

Bob Dylan's Christmas album: It's hard to slag a project when the artist's royalties go to charity, but we're confused by "Christmas in the Heart." The vintage arrangements are fine, but midway through all that Currier & Ives cheer come Dylan's ravaged pipes, often resembling a bullfrog gargling rock salt. "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," sure, but Dylan sounds a far cry from heavenly.

Holiday season creep: It's bad enough retailers have pushed our country's seasonal shopping frenzy to Halloween's doorstep, but is it necessary for Hollywood to follow along? That's right, we're looking at you, Disney. Robert Zemeckis' "A Christmas Carol" may prove to be a hit, but rolling it out weeks before Thanksgiving feels like a cash-conscious choice Ebenezer himself might've loved.

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