BOOK -- The Beatles: The Biography: This massive -- almost 1,000 pages -- history of the Fab Four doesn't really reveal anything new. (Unless an eyewitness account of the death of John Lennon's mum makes you shout, "Yeah, yeah, yeah.") But writer Bob Spitz sure has done his homework. From Lennon and Paul McCartney's first meeting to the lawyer-assisted breakup, this bio is even more sprawling than The White Album.
DVD -- Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Johnny Depp's way over-the-top performance as candy man Willy Wonka anchors last summer's hit movie, a fast and feisty remake that makes the original look like a sugar-free jellybean. Tim Burton directs with the same skewed hand that created Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands -- and the results are just as bizarre (dig the nut-busting squirrels!). The two-disc deluxe edition includes several making-of docs, games, and the story behind all those Oompa-Loompas. Sweet!
TV -- Extras: Our favorite new show wraps up its criminally short season (six episodes? We've been robbed!) at 10:30 p.m. Sunday on HBO. Andy (the always-superb Ricky Gervais) nearly ruins his chance at a sitcom deal by referring to a BBC collaborator as "too gay." But even he is upstaged by Star Trek: The Next Generation's randy Patrick Stewart, who has more than phasers and warp speed on his mind.
MOVIE -- Jarhead: Jake Gyllenhaal, Peter Sarsgaard, and Jamie Foxx star in this faithful adaptation of Anthony Swofford's candid memoir about the Gulf War. Director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) nails the dreamlike nature and brain-draining dreariness of warfare. Dark days and even darker humor haunt a unit of Marine snipers as they make their way through this desert storm of a war flick, which recalls M*A*S*H, Three Kings, Full Metal Jacket, and Apocalypse Now. Smells like . . . Oscar!
PRODUCT -- V.Smile Pocket Learning System: Think of this handheld videogame system (which can also be plugged into your TV) as a child's step toward adulthood. Like a first car or apartment, this cool toy -- which includes game cartridges featuring SpongeBob SquarePants and other pop-culture icons -- prepares kids for something bigger and better down the line -- like the PlayStation 3. Best part: It's just as much fun for Mom and Dad, who'll get so caught up in flipping Crabby Patties that they'll be fighting the little one for game time. Enjoy it now -- they'll be fragging demons from hell in no time.
COURTESY FLUSH, PLEASE -- I Am Me: We really don't mean to hate on Ashlee Simpson. Really. We kinda liked hearing "Pieces of Me" on the radio three dozen times a day. But on her new CD, Jessica's little sis isn't sure who she wants to be (ironic, given the album's title): Sullen punk? Pop-chewing teen? Sultry balladeer? Distaff cock-rocker? Simpson tries them all on, and each time is as awkward as her clumsy hoedown on Saturday Night Live last year.
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