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Overrated/underrated

March 13, 2011

UNDERRATED

'Howl' (2010): Though anyone annoyed by James Franco's heavy-lidded turn as Oscars host might resist further exploring his unpredictable career, this film featuring Franco as a young Allen Ginsberg finds him in surprisingly fine form. Not only does Franco transcend his near-overexposure with a convincing performance, but the documentary-styled film's use of surreal animation with dialogue from court transcripts and interviews sets Ginsberg's poetry in motion.

Carolina Chocolate Drops: With spring practically around the corner, few things mesh as well with a sunny day in the great outdoors like rustic acoustic music, and this North Carolina group is one of the best. One of the few remaining African American string bands, the Grammy winners stretch in exciting new directions on a recent EP, mixing soulful vocals and sawing fiddles with beat-box rhythms. Old-time music never sounded so current.

OVERRATED

Lady Gaga's 'Born This Way': While there's definitely something empowering about this song's message, hasn't her Gaga-ness finally gone too far with her Madonna-worship? First it was the high-fashion costumes and gift for a grand entrance, now she's nicked about 80% of the melody of "Express Yourself" for her latest single. Good artists borrow while great artists steal, of course, but someone better make sure Gaga doesn't adopt a fake British accent next.

Never-ending 'Star Wars': Perhaps the most exciting aspects of the news that George Lucas is again tweaking his galaxy far, far away — a 3-D re-release of "Phantom Menace" — is the possibility of a profoundly indifferent reaction from fans of his original trilogy. Lucas got their money before with these cartoonish prequels, but what are the odds they will turn out again to watch a movie be disappointing in an added dimension? Fool us once, George, shame on you. Fool us twice …

— Chris Barton

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