This week, a passel of stars are coming out in at least one major movie release. But on DVD, there's a major Humphrey Bogart collection and he counts as five major stars in 2006. (Call it the rate of "fame inflation.")
In the world of books, Watergate journalist Bob Woodward is getting fresh attention, and the world of theater is bringing at least two cult movie favorites to life. There's also a new CD by Gladys Knight that is likely to make your toes curl — in a good way.
So let's get going, shall we?
About 42 years ago, Granada's Word in Action team had a very cool idea: Let's film a bunch of 7-year-olds and then revisit them on film every seven years. "49 Up" is the seventh film in the series. The children, from all over England, have been interviewed at the ages of 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42 and now we'll be seeing how their lives stand at 49.
The big-star movie is "The Departed," with a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Mark Wahlberg, and Alec Baldwin. It's a mob vs. the cops flick that might be worth a look just to see Nicholson playing a gangland chief. ("Prizzi's Honor," anyone?)
"Employee of the Month" focuses on the social foibles and escapades of the folks who work at the local Super Club, the largest discount store on the country. Let's just say it involves a bet, a pretty girl and S-E-X.
Scoff if you must, but remember that "Jackass Number Two" was No. 1 at the box office when it opened the weekend of Sept. 22. So the chances are not bad for "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning," which promises to reveal the origins of Leatherface, a legend among horror aficionados.
Lately, we've been agog for series debuts and season premieres. But at the other end of the spectrum, there are season finales, and we've got plenty of those coming up.
On Oct. 2, "Prison Break" (FOX) has its last new episode before it goes on hiatus, and so does "Vanished," also on FOX.
Oct. 3 brings the first-season finales of "Eureka" (SciFi) and "Million Dollar Listing" (BRAVO).
On Oct. 4, look for the last new episode of "Bones" before its hiatus. Back to the subject of premieres again, we've got to mention the season debuts of "Lost" (ABC) and "South Park" (Comedy Central), as well as the series premiere of "The Nine" (ABC).
We're still looking for your vote on whether you think all the new fall series will sink or swim. To get in on this,.
Next Sunday, Oct. 8, brings two more season finales, for "Bridezillas" (WE) and "Flavor of Love" (VH1) starring the dynamic and totally unpredictable Flavor Flav, making his final choice, hoping to find the woman of his dreams — and what dreams they must be!
And also for Sunday, we must point out "The Haunting Within," one of those original Lifetime movies. Billy Baldwin stars in this program, described by the cable network as follows: "Two siblings return to the family estate after their father's death and discover that their family has a secret supernatural history."
Gladys Knight has been in showbiz since she was 7 years old, when she won the top prize on "Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour," the cultural ancestor of "American Idol." This means that the 62-year-old singer has been in the business for more than 50 years. If you're good, you don't hang around that long without knowing your way around a song. If you're great, you open your mouth and right away the listener knows who you are.
So there's good reason to expect great things from "Before Me," the CD Knight is releasing Tuesday, Oct. 3. It's meant as a tribute to such African-American performers as Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Dinah Washington, and Sammy Davis Jr. The first single from the album is "God Bless the Child," which, of course, is Knight's salute to Billie Holiday.
Other Tuesday releases include:
Bob Woodward's "State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III" is the result of two years of work and interviews with more than 200 people, and it's getting a lot of media attention, including an interview with Mike Wallace on CBS News' 60 Minutes. Among other things, Woodward told Wallace that the Bush administration has not told the truth about the level of violence in Iraq (especially violence against U.S. troops) and that Henry Kissinger is among those advising the president.
For fiction, there is "Dance of the Gods (The Circle Trilogy, Book 2)" by Nora Roberts. The plot is summed up by Publishers Weekly as follows: "With one vampire determined to rule the earth, the Circle of Six prepares to battle for their lives — and their hearts." Publishers Weekly also reviews the book as "a testament to (Roberts') skill and range … Paranormal fans are assured a good time, as is anyone who enjoys captivating fiction."
Maurice Sendak is out with a new children's book, "Mommy?", which is a question that is posed to a variety of imaginary monsters by a precocious little boy. Sendak uses his sly slap-sticky humor to endow the child with power over the monsters, making them ridiculous rather than fearsome. (For example, when one monster's pants are pulled down, it's revealed that it wears a pair of silly boxer shorts.)
You may have seen him in movies such as "The Birdcage" and "Mousetrap," but Nathan Lane ultimately is a creature of the stage, and he begins New York previews Thursday, Oct. 5, in "Butley," a dark comedy centering on the personal and professional setbacks of a literary professor.
Also on Broadway, "Grey Gardens", with Christine Ebersole and Mary Louise Wilson, begins preview performances Tuesday, Oct. 3. "Grey Gardens" was a cult-hit documentary film about the eccentric aunt and cousin of Jackie Kennedy Onassis, who lived as recluses in East Hampton. (The title refers to the name of their 28-room mansion, which, like its occupants, definitely has seen better days.)
Speaking of cult film classics, "Evil Dead: The Musical" will begin previews off-Broadway on Monday, Oct. 2. You may have seen the movie series, but probably you haven't heard the songs, with titles such as "All the Men in My Life Keep Getting Killed by Candarian Demons."
And it's worth a mention that the Broadway hit "Monty Python's Spamalot" began previews over the weekend on London's West End, with a cast including Tim Curry and Christopher Sieber re-created their Broadway roles as King Arthur and Sir Galahad, respectively. Critics will weigh in after the show's official opening Oct. 16, and it should be interesting to see what they think of it. After all, the show's roots are in Great Britain, and this is a kind of homecoming.
Besides getting to gorge oneself on old episodes of favorite TV shows, one right after another, with no commercials, the best thing about DVDs probably is their ability to resurrect old movies — and their stars.
This week, we get "Humphrey Bogart — The Signature Collection, Vols. 1 and 2". If you're looking for "Casablanca," "The Treasure of the Sierra Madre," "They Drive By Night" or "High Sierra," try Vol. 1 of Bogie's "Signature Collection." The Vol. 2 package includes a three-disc special edition of "The Maltese Falcon," as well as the movies "Across the Pacific," "Action in the North Atlantic," "All Through the Night" and "Passage to Marseille."
"X-Men — The Last Stand" is out this week and in case you want a triple header, there's also "The X-Men Trilogy," which offers "The Last Stand" together with the first two "X-Men" movies.
"Lewis Black — Red, White & Screwed" is the second special that the comedian did for HBO.
For the kiddies, there is a two-disc special edition of "The Little Mermaid", Disney's version being much happier than the Hans Christian Andersen original. (Disney has the mermaid in a wedding dress at the end, whereas Andersen had her fizzle into sea foam.)
And, in case you always meant to see them in the theater and never got around to them, you'll be happy to hear that "The Notorious Bettie Page" and "Thank You For Smoking" are ready for your DVD player this week.