Getting a little edgy because the holidays are lurking around the corner? Kick back and listen to some old Neil Young, or read a new scary story by James Patterson, or watch a classic "Columbo" mystery.
Listen, as a good old singer named Cat Stevens once told us, "Oo, oo, baby, it's a wild world." So what if his name is Yusuf now? It's still a wild world, baby, and there's a whole lot out there to rev you up or calm you down.
Let's hop on the highway and take a spin, shall we?
From the sublime (Bond) to the ridiculous (Black), you could spend a lot of time and money at the multiplex this week and never run into the same sort of thing.
Let's start with "Casino Royale," which is bringing us Daniel Craig in his debut as James Bond. He also has light-colored hair and trust us on this one: few casting decisions have ever made the hearts of headline writers more glad: BLOND BOND! It remains to be seen if this particular blond has more fun or generates bigger box office than his predecessors. But as a bonus, we're getting Judi Dench as M. So probably it won't be the worst Bond, even if it doesn't turn out to be the best.
Jack Black romps onto the screen again in "Tenacious D In: The Pick of Destiny." If you are a devotee of Black, then you already know that Tenacious D is the name of his band, and so it doesn't take a huge leap of logic to conclude that this movie is a pet project of his. Black's partner in crime is Kyle Gass. Let's hope that's what the movie is. A gas.
Ah, penguins. Plenty of penguins. In movies, they have marched, they have fed their young, they have glided along plains of ice. In "Happy Feet," they are animated and they sing. Well, except for poor little Mumbles, who cannot carry a tune. But Mumbles can dance! Oh, heck, why even try to resist a film that offers the voices of Robin Williams, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Elijah Wood and Brittany Murphy?
Photographer-writer Lauren Greenfield was granted access to an eating disorder facility for a magazine piece and a book. But she wanted to do more, and returned to make a documentary, "Thin," which airs on HBO at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 14. Living at Florida's Renfrew Center for six months, Greenfield and her crew observed the meetings, therapy sessions and meals that make up daily life for those undergoing treatment. Through interviews, still photographs and behind-the-scenes footage, "Thin" tells the stories of four women between the ages of 15 and 30 whose pasts may be different but who became united by a common illness. "Thin" exposes these women's struggles with eating and weight as well as the deeper issues afflicting women by the hundreds of thousands who are, literally, dying to be thin.
On its May 5, 2005, front page, the local newspaper in Spokane, Wash., outed the popular, socially conservative Republican mayor, Jim West, as a man living two lives: In public, he had once sponsored legislation that forbade gays from teaching in public schools, while, in private, the paper alleged, he was trawling for young men online. But when the news broke, eyebrows were also raised by the paper's investigative methods: For months, a middle-aged "forensic computer specialist" had posed as an 18-year-old boy online, engaging the mayor in a relationship that became more and more intimate. "We wanted to know, 'Do we have a mayor trolling on the Internet for underage boys?'" explains Spokesman-Review reporter Bill Morlin in the "Frontline" documentary, "A Hidden Life," which explores the relationship in one particular town between politics, sexuality, fear and judgment. It airs on PBS Tuesday, Nov. 14, at 9 p.m. (check local listings).
For many baby boomers, Cat Stevens was the voice of the '70s. Thousands of dorms echoed with the sound of "Moon Shadow," "Peace Train" and "Ruby Love." And when he converted to Islam and stopped producing those sounds, it marked a significant period of mourning of a heck of a lot of people.
Well, with "An Other Cup" (perhaps a sly reference to "Tea For The Tillerman"?) the artist returns with a new identity, Yusuf. On his return to music, Yusuf says "I feel right about making music and singing about life in this fragile world again. It is important for me to help bridge the cultural gaps others are sometimes frightened to cross."
Whether it is a bridge that his old faithfuls care to investigate is as personal a decision as their choice to take him to heart way back when he went by the name of Cat.
Speaking of the old days, how about "Live at the Fillmore East" with Neil Young and Crazy Horse? True guitar aficionados are more than familiar with the name of Danny Whitten, who died way too young of a drug overdose. Put it this way: Here's a chance to hear a guitarist for whom even Eddie Van Halen might take a back seat.
Also keep an ear out for "Real Live Roadrunning," a live performance by Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris before a sold-out crowd at the Gibson Amphitheatre, recorded June 28, 2006.
For a book lover, these words sound like the trumpets of royal heraldry: Carl Hiassen. Yes, there is a new Hiassen this week: "Nature Girl". With Hiassen, you never know what's going to come out of the hat. But you can be certain you'll be shaking it out long after you've sadly come to the last page, wishing there was more. This new one, another Florida adventure, involves a hapless telemarketer, an accidental hostage and an airboat operator named Sammy Tigertail.
All in all, it's a terrific week for addictive reads. James Patterson gives us "Cross," and if you're a Patterson nut, there's no need to tell you that Alex Cross is the name of his No. 1 protagonist. This time around, Cross is hot on the trail of the long-ago murderer of his beloved wife, Maria.
For those who prefer brainier pursuits between the covers, there is a new one from Jimmy Carter titled "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid." This book is designed to offer an assessment of what must be done to bring a lasting peace to Israel, while at the same time affording dignity and justice to Palestine.
Here comes "Mary Poppins," opening on Broadway Thursday, Nov. 16. Word on the Internet is that Gavin Lee, who plays Bert, steals every scene he's in. You'll recognize plenty of numbers from the blockbuster 1964 movie but there are new songs as well, written just for this stage production.
Also on Broadway, the play "The Little Dog Laughed" opens Monday, Nov. 13. The comedy's cast includes Johnny Galecki, who played David on the TV series "Roseanne."
On the West Coast, look for the spectacle of "The Lion King" to open at the Pantages Theatre in L.A. Saturday, Nov. 18. It's obviously intended as a treat for the holiday season, as it's a limited run that ends Jan. 7, 2007. But it could be the best gift you give anyone, whether you're seeking to thrill a child or an adult.
Here are a few titles that will be released Tuesday, Nov. 14:
"Paul McCartney: The Space Within Us" is a feature-length concert film of The Cute One's 2005 U.S. tour. Let's face it. If you love Paul, you will love this DVD. As incredible as it sounds to his fans, there are people who don't care for him and there are even those who are not so quick to dismiss Heather Mills' assertions that he is a mean old man (see "Mr. Mustard"). But on this DVD, you get "Maybe I'm Amazed," which is one of his best love songs; "Got To Get You Into My Life," which is one of his best love songs; "I Will," which is one of his best love songs … oh, are we getting boring? Well, look: Some people want to fill the world with silly love songs. What's wrong with that? I'd like to know! … OK, OK. We'll move on.
There are some circles of friends that mark each other as the Dorothy (sensible), Blanche (sexy), Rose (scatter-brained) and Sophia (sassy) of the group. If you know what sentence meant, then you'll be happy to know that "The Golden Girls — The Complete Sixth Season" is on its way. Picture it: Miami, in the '80s: Dorothy (Bea Arthur) considers remarrying Stan, Sophia (Estelle Getty) enters a convent (briefly), Blanche (Rue McClanahan) pretends to be the mother of an infant, and Rose (Betty White) tells many stories about life in St. Olaf, Minn.
Oh! Just one more thing …
Did you think of Columbo when you read that last line? Then this one's for you: "Columbo: The Complete Sixth and Seventh Seasons". Relish the guest stars in these episodes: Ruth Gordon, William Shatner, Louis Jourdan, and even a minor role played by young Kim Cattrall, who would go on to find fame as Samantha in "Sex and the City."