Culture Catch-up: Dolly Parton digs those days
Music. It might sound cheesy to record an album of hits from the '60s and '70s, but if Those Were the Days ($19) had to be a dairy product, it would be the creme de la creme. Dolly Parton rounded up some stars from the past (like Yusuf Islam, Kris Kristofferson, and Judy Collins) as well as contemporary chart-toppers (like Norah Jones, Keith Urban, and Alison Krauss) to partner with her on classic tunes. Her country-tinged "Where Do the Children Play" is positively addictive, as are many of the other tracks, including "Blowin' in the Wind," "Turn, Turn, Turn," and "Me and Bobby McGee."
Books. Reviewers won't stop beating up on Stephen King's latest novel, The Colorado Kid ($6). It's part of the Hard Case Crime series that celebrates the lost art of pulp fiction. The Kid cover has the right kind of sexy cover image: a seductive redhead in a cleavage-friendly dress. But the story about two geezers from a newspaper in Maine yapping about an unsolved murder to a young intern isn't hard-boiled enough for the pulp crowd. King, though, knows how to tell a riveting tale, so it certainly ain't bad. A lesser-known author who has a way with words, Colby Buzzell, has a stunning debut with My War: Killing Time in Iraq ($26). Weary of dead-end jobs, Buzzell decided to enlist in the Army, and then off he went to war as a machine gunner. He chronicled the car bombings, mortar attacks, and his frustration in a blog that caught the eye of publishers. As Kirkus Reviews noted, "If military recruitment is down now, wait till the kids read this book."
DVDs. Before HBO or Showtime, there was another cable network devoted to film that made the movie buffs of L.A. go gaga. Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession ($25) documents the rise and fall of the quirky station that fed viewers the works of cinema greats like Kurosawa and Peckinpah and pioneered the notion of the director's cut through the talents of tortured film genius Jerry Harvey, who killed his wife and then committed suicide in 1988. Interviews with Robert Altman, Quentin Tarantino (convulsing with excitement as always), and others are interspersed with clips from the movies Z Channel catapulted to the attention of the film world. Aspiring filmmakers may get similarly all aquiver about the DVD of director Ridley Scott's Crusades epic, Kingdom of Heaven ($30). Instead of a ready-made "making of" featurette, there's an "interactive production grid." Um, what is that? Well, it's a screen that lets viewers decide whether they want to hear about the pre-production, the production, or the post-production, and whether they want to hear it from the perspective of the cast, the director, or the crew. There are 16 choices in all, totaling about 125 minutes. In theory, it sounds fun, and everybody loves giving Orlando Bloom more screen time. But no making-of featurette should be longer than the average movie.