|Lord of the Rings The – Two Towers
While more spectacular and epic in scope than its predecessor, the storyline of the second installment in the Tolkien trilogy gives way to multiple plot threads running from one end of Middle-earth to the other. The digitally-rendered Golum is a creepy and compelling central character, providing a focal point for the episodic ramblings.
An actual documentary about the universe’s most fervent fans. Chronicles conventions, collections, obsessions and the wide-reaching cult status of Star Trek. Quirky character studies, affectionate teasing, and celebrity anecdotes will appeal to lovers of the series who are willing to laugh at themselves.
Roman Polanski’s WWII melodrama follows a Jewish-Polish musician who survives the Nazi invasion, the Warsaw ghetto and the Holocaust. The emotionally-charged film garnered Academy Awards for both Polanski and lead actor Adrien Brody.
|The Lion King
With the exception of Beauty and the Beast, this may be the best Disney animated feature since Fantasia. The story is basically an archetypical myth in an African setting – the “true king” returning to defeat the usurper on his throne. A good idea for a film, told with a great deal of style. The artwork is mostly spectacular, and the score won numerous awards. Most importantly, kids love it.
|Mates of State – Team Boo
Even if you find husband-and-wife bands who use music as metaphor for relationships stomach-turningly adorable, there’s no denying Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel’s appeal, as they lift every lyric to an optimistic peak. What’s more, you get giant calliope organ, crooked waltz drumming, and joyously hollered harmonies throughout this perky pop album.
|Ben Harper – Diamonds on the Inside
An equal blend of Bob Dylan and Bob Marley, with a bit of Cat Stevens and Stevie Wonder thrown into the mix? High praise indeed, but Ben Harper’s hybrid pop has made him an artist without contemporary peer, and this is his most diverse collections of songs yet.
|Sidestepper – More Grip
British drum ‘n’ bass producer Richard Blair developed his Sidestepper alias while immersed in the nightlife of Bogota. On his first full-length album, he channels the essence of Colombian soul through an 808, and adds generous portions of percussion and horns, as well as vocals by traditional singers, for a glimpse at the future of Latin dance music.
|Mia Doi Todd – The Golden State
On previous albums, this classically-trained vocalist revealed her ability to induce a dreamy, narcotic state, while communicating intimate lyrical details. Her Columbia Records debut shows Todd’s tranquil yet expressive voice faring well with both acoustic songs and tracks laden with percussion, electric guitar, and the occasional backing loop.