The week's best releases from the pop culture universe
CD: Back to Black: Amy Winehouse is a stumbling, slurring mess. And the British singer is proud of it—laughing off failed alcohol treatment in the opening song, "Rehab," and boozing her way through other sultry torch tracks. She's also a pretty lousy girlfriend (see "You Know I'm No Good"). Producer Mark Ronson (who jazzed up Christina Aguilera last year) piles on the slinky, sexy grooves on this terrific R&B/pop/jazz/hip-hop hybrid.
DVD: 42nd Street Forever: XXX-Treme Special Edition: The latest outing in Synapse's cool grindhouse series features trailers for nearly 50 '70s and '80s porn flicks. Plot was never a priority with these seedy films, but you wouldn't know it by their trailers, which spotlight bizarre sci-fi parables, James Bond spoofs, and classic literature rewrites. Of course, there's plenty of skin too. And you thought mainstream movie trailers showed too much.
CD: Life in Cartoon Motion: Twenty-two-year-old Brit Mika checks in with the year's gayest CD with this fun, colorful pastiche of Queen-like operatics and Elton John-style pop. Lots of songs on this debut album sound like other, more famous tunes—which is the point. Mika has a grand time tying genres, decades, and influences together.
DVD: The Queen: One of last year's best films is also one of its most understated. Helen Mirren (who snagged a Best Actress Oscar) plays Queen Elizabeth, forced to keep a royal stiff upper lip in the wake of Princess Diana's death. It's a magnificent performance, amped by Stephen Frears' sharp direction. Extras include commentary by Frears, the movie's writer, and a noted British historian. Jolly good!
BOOK: Third Coast: OutKast, Timbaland, and How Hip-Hop Became a Southern Thing: Music critic Roni Sarig might be a half-decade or so behind with this look at the Dirty South, but he rounds up all the crucial players. Even if his theory—rap was born in the South—is emptier than Master P's bank account, Sarig's profile of Miami, Houston, and New Orleans hip-hop has plenty of bounce. Yeeaaahhhh!
COURTESY FLUSH, PLEASE: Pornology: The full title of this relationship book for ladies is as exasperating as its subject. Ayn Carrillo-Gailey set out to demystify pornography for uptight, frigid, or otherwise shy gals. Instead, this cluttered guide includes an unhelpful Porn-To-Do list (No. 2: "Watch porn"—duh) and ho-hum statistics ("The Fastest Growing Segment of the Porn-Buying Audience: Women"). Don't expect a money shot.
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