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July 19, 2007

"Ace in the Hole"

The media circus is not just a product of today's ravenous quest for news. It was alive and well and just as sleazy half a century ago. Also known as "The Big Carnival," Billy Wilder's 1951 critique of American obsession and ambition stars Kirk Douglas as a reporter in New Mexico scheming to boost his prospects by fanning the frenzy when he stumbles into a news story about a man trapped alive in a mine. The two-disc set includes a 1980 documentary featuring interviews with Wilder, a 1984 conversation with Douglas, an audio interview with the movie's co-writer Walter Newman, and some comments from filmmaker Spike Lee. The film also is accompanied by commentary and essays from filmmakers and critics. DVD set, $39.95. (Criterion) - By The Associated Press

"The Hills Have Eyes 2"

The cannibalistic mutants live on in this sequel to the remake of Wes Craven's 1970s horror tale about a family whose road trip turns into a bloody nightmare. This time, a group of National Guard soldiers on assignment in the desert picks up a distress signal and mounts a rescue mission, only to become lunch meat for the ravenous creatures that crave human flesh. The movie is available in the R-rated theatrical version or a more graphic unrated edition. The DVD includes a Fox Movie Channel segment on Craven, who wrote the screenplay for the new movie with his son. The disc also features deleted scenes and an alternate ending, plus three background featurettes. DVD, $29.98. (20th Century Fox) - By The Associated Press

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"Premonition"

What a week Sandra Bullock is having. This paranormal thriller has her as a mildly bored, mildly frazzled housewife who suddenly starts living the days of the week out of order - with her hubby (Julian McMahon) dying in a car wreck one day, then sipping coffee in the kitchen safe and sound the next. Bullock's forced to scramble to figure out what's happening, stitch together missing pieces in her fractured life and try to prevent the accident from happening. The movie is accompanied by deleted scenes and an alternate ending with commentary from director Mennan Yapo, who also joins Bullock for commentary on the full film. Extras include a couple of behind-the-scenes featurettes and a segment on real people who claim they had premonitions of the future. DVD, $28.95; Blu-ray disc, $38.96. (Sony) - By The Associated Press




New CDs



Suzanne Vega, "Beauty and Crime"

Suzanne Vega's "Beauty and Crime" uses New York City as a backdrop to weave together a sometimes unrelated - but always wistful - mix of songs in honor of the city and its changes after the terrorist attacks.

The native New Yorker evokes the grief of rescue workers in "Angel's Doorway," a song about a cop stationed at ground zero, and the hope that slowly returned on "Anniversary," an acoustic ballad that paints a picture of New York a year later when memories of loss filled the empty skyline.

The concept is noble, but it's been done before and naturally subject to comparison.

Wynton Marsalis. Leonard Cohen. Most notably Bruce Springsteen. Everything changed after Sept. 11 when they and countless others recorded albums of poetry and song to honor the city and its resilient wonders.

And to be fair, it's not that the topic has become taboo. But it has to be done well if done at all.

And that's the most unsettling feeling in the album, how it veers wildly away from the streets of New York and the theme she's labored to establish to explore something new.

"New York Is A Woman," which offers a sultry personification of the Big Apple, seems more like she fell in love with her own poetry. "Frank and Ava" is a ballad about Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner.

What? Old Blue Eyes?

Granted, Frank and Ava are quintessentially cool lovers symbolic of New York. But the jump from the sorrow and grief of Sept. 11 to celebrity love makes one wonder what Vega hoped to accomplish at all. - By The Associated Press

The Chemical Brothers, "We Are the Night"

Yellowcard, "Paper Walls"

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