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Here are the week's best releases from the pop-culture universe: 

Winehouse: A stumbling, slurring mess.
  • Winehouse: A stumbling, slurring mess.
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, a fun, colorful pastiche of Queen-like operatics and Elton John-style pop. Lots of songs on this debut 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: Noun -- 1. A Good Girl's Guide to . . . : 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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More by Michael Gallucci

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