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Underrated/overrated

September 06, 2009

UNDERRATED

Arve Henriksen: If you're thirsty for surprising sounds and quietly evocative mood music, look up this sonic explorer from Norway. Imagine Miles Davis remaking "In a Silent Way" inside a snow cave and you have some idea of where this trumpeter's atmospheric ECM release "Cartography" is coming from. There may not be a traditional jazz groove, but if you follow where Henriksen leads, you won't miss it.

"Being Human": The premise for this BBC America series sounds like a bad "SNL" sketch -- a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire share an apartment. But over its merely six-episode first season, the series has not only avoided any sci-fi "Three's Company" comparisons but wound up with a compelling, self-aware and funny story line. "Buffy" fans -- come out of the "Twilight" and sink your teeth into this import.

OVERRATED

Exploding people: Looking past the idea that the alien apartheid movie "District 9" is possibly the most thought- provoking hit of the summer (an easy feat), the film may have broken the record for splatter-art death scenes in one film. Sure, it's a shocking effect, but eventually we would've preferred that some of that visual energy went to filling a few holes in the plot instead.

Pot as plot device: Sorry, screenwriters. We know it's a gateway drug to hijinks and hilarity when someone gets stoned on-screen (especially for the first time -- hello, Peggy Olson!), but if we can agree that marijuana is closer to the mainstream than ever, then can we agree that it's no longer edgy to write about it? We've traveled on the "Pineapple Express," we've watched "Mad Men" get happy. What's next?

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