Music » Culture Jamming

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


BOOK -- Queens Reign Supreme: Ethan Brown's profile/exposé of New York City's outer borough -- subtitled "Fat Cat, 50 Cent, and the Rise of the Hip-Hop Hustler" -- ties together 1980s drug dealers, brutal killings, and legendary rappers. The book plants a branch-sprouting family tree that's often knotty (wiretap transcripts, historic hip-hop battles, and the identity of Fiddy's shooter all figure into the action). And it gives new, crack-based meaning to homeboys Run-DMC's "King of Rock."

DVD -- Dark Water: Finally, a Japanese horror remake that doesn't suck! Jennifer Connelly plays a single mother who moves into an apartment building with really bad plumbing. Like The Ring before it, this soggy creepfest is more about chills than logic. But H2O hasn't been this terrifying since Jaws surfaced for a midnight snack 30 years ago.

CD -- Home Grown! The Beginner's Guide to Understanding the Roots, Volumes One and Two: Here's your chance to catch up with one of the most distinctive hip-hop groups on the planet. Philadelphia's Roots often get props for the live instruments they bring to the mix. But on these two discs -- sold separately -- they also prove to be formidable rappers with innovation and style to spare. Volume One (which includes most of the hits) is a bit more solid than Volume Two, which is heavy on live cuts and remixes. Together they represent Philly's tastiest export since the cheesesteak.

DVD -- Airplane!: Don't Call Me Shirley Edition: The 25th anniversary version of one of the world's funniest and most influential movies comes packed with bonus material like deleted scenes, group commentary, and a trivia track. But the spotlight remains on the 90-minute jokefest, a spoof of '70s disaster films that squeezes in more gags per minute than anything ever shown on the big screen. And that includes Saw II.

TV -- Hayao Miyazaki: The Oscar-winning animator gets a month-long salute on Turner Classic Movies, which airs nine of his mind-blowing films (including Princess Mononoke and My Neighbor Totoro). We advise sticking with the original Japanese versions (English dubs are also being shown for the subtitle-phobic), since they retain the movies' impish spirit. It kicks off at 8 p.m. Thursday with his 2002 masterpiece Spirited Away, in which a little girl embarks on an Alice-like journey through an apparition-filled wonderland. Break out the 'shrooms!

BOOK -- The Star Wars Poster Book: Now that the space saga is complete, we can survey nearly two decades' worth of posters from around the world in their proper perspective. Many colorful placards come from products other than movies: cola one-sheets, fast-food-giveaway announcements, and ads for toys. Best, however, are the early posters for the first Star Wars movie, in which Luke Skywalker is depicted with bulging muscles and flowing locks -- obviously commissioned before the artists got a look at Mark Hamill.

COURTESY FLUSH, PLEASE -- Relationship Rehab: They may not have to choke down squirming bugs or walk tightropes over a pit of boiling lava, but the lovesick participants on this reality-TV series (airing at 9 p.m. Tuesday on the Style Network) are put through similar courses from hell. Host Wendy Diamond brings mopey, brokenhearted whiners back to life by stressing five RE's: release, reclaim, restore, revamp, and re-enter. We have a sixth: regurgitate.

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