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What's new in entertainment

A look at what's new in movies, books, music, television, video games and DVDs for the weekend.

MOVIES:

"300"

Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller ("Sin City"), "300" uses a lush, stylized combination of live action and computer-generated images to tell the story of the Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartan soldiers faced an invading Persian army in 480 B.C. Facing overwhelming odds and certain death, Spartan King Leonidas and his men vow to kill as many enemy soldiers as they can, a valiant effort that inspires the rest of the Greek nations to rise up and fight the invaders. Starring Gerard Butler, Dominic West, Lena Heady, Rodrigo Santoro and David Wenham. Directed by Zack Snyder ("Dawn of the Dead"). Released by Warner Bros. Rated R.

Official movie site

What the critics say:

"'300' is a movie blood-drunk on its own artful excess. Guys of all ages and sexes won't be able to resist it."

-Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"This is dazzle for the head, not the heart."

-Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"THE ULTIMATE GIFT"

Fox Faith Movies, a division of 20th Century Fox, is behind this earnest drama about young jet-setter who's due to receive a big inheritance when his grandfather dies. There's a catch, though - he must complete 12 tasks intended to cure him of being a superficial, spoiled little creep. Starring Drew Fuller, Abigail Breslin and James Garner. Directed by Michael O. Sajbel. Rated PG.

Official movie site

What the critics say:

"'The Ultimate Gift' is so resolutely 'good for you' that watching it is a lot like eating Brussels sprouts."

-Nick Schager, Slant Magazine

"The ultimate gift to the bored audience comes when the end credits signify salvation."

-Phil Villarreal, The Arizona Daily star

OPENING IN LIMITED RELEASE (check local listings):

"THE HOST"

Already a smash hit abroad before reaching the U.S., this South Korean science-fiction horror film mixes scares with offbeat humor to tell the story of a family battling a giant mutant creature that rises out a river and consumes everyone in its path. When his youngest daughter is snatched by the beast, slacker hero Kang-Du and his family pursue it into the sewers, hoping to rescue the girl before she becomes the creature's next meal. Directed by Bong Joon-ho. Released by Magnolia Pictures. Rated R.

Official movie site

What the critics say:

"His wildly entertaining saga should become the hip, thinking-person's monster movie of choice."

-Lisa Schwarzbaum, Entertainment Weekly

"A perfect mixture of the silly and the grave."

-Anthony Lane, The New Yorker

"MAXED OUT"

A documentary that tackles the credit card industry as well as the whole consumer lending business, which some critics say prey on the most desperate and encourage those with limited means to take on potentially ruinous loans. Directed by James D. Scurlock. Released by Trueworks. Not rated.

Official movie site

What the critics say:

"Intelligent, informative and unusually entertaining (documentary) errs only when it yanks too insistently on heartstrings while focusing on worst-case scenarios involving desperate debtors driven to suicide."

-Joe Leydon, Variety

"Given that (the film) is a resolutely uncinematic progression of talking heads - and they're talking about a subject most of us would rather not even think about -- it's a remarkably entertaining film."

-Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com

"THE NAMESAKE"

An Indian family copes with life in America in this adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's acclaimed novel. The son, nicknamed "Gogol" (Kal Penn), rebels against his parents' immigrant ways, but ultimately must reconcile his heritage with his attempt to establish his own identity. Based on the novel by Jhumpa Lahiri. With Irrfan Khan, Jacinda Barrett, Jacinda Barrett and Zuleikha Robinson. Directed by Mira Nair. Released by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Rated PG-13.

Official movie site

What the critics say:

"'The Namesake' is a thoroughly engaging, terrifically moving family story that's rich in beautifully observed and lovingly conveyed human detail."

-Glenn Kenny, Premiere

"(A) moving and marvelous new cross-cultural family saga."

-Owen Gleiberman. Entertainment Weekly





VIDEO:

"Baby Einstein's My First Signs"

Marlee Matlin hosts this special that tells parents how to teach sign language to children as young as three months so parents can better understand their needs. Released by Walt Disney Video. Not rated. Available March 13.

"The Burmese Harp"

Regarded as one of the best Japanese movies of all time, "The Burmese Harp" concerns a Japanese soldier in the last days of World War II who disguises himself as a Buddhist priest in order to cross the landscape and rejoin his unit. Along the way, however, he tends to the sick and wounded and unexpectedly begins to behave as selflessly as a real man of faith. Directed by Kon Ichikawa. Released by Criterion. Not rated. Available March 13.

"Casino Royale"

Daniel Craig steps into 007's shoes for the first time in this adaptation of Ian Fleming's first James Bond novel. Newly given the license to kill by his superiors, Bond sets off on a mission to stop banker and world-class poker player Le Chiffre from winning a tournament that will help him finance a terrorist ring. With Jeffrey Wright, Eva Green, Mads Mikkelsen and Judi Dench. Directed by Martin Campbell. Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13. Available March 13.

"Eloise: Eloise in Hollywood"

An animated film adapted from Kay Thompson's popular series of children's books, "Eloise" finds the title heroine taking a trip to Hollywood and making mischief wherever she goes. Featuring the voices of Lynn Redgrave, Tim Curry and Alan Cumming. Released by Anchor Bay. Available March 13.

"The Holiday"

Two women (Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet) with romantic troubles decide to swap homes for the holidays and end up loving their new lives in this romantic comedy. With Jude Law and Jack Black. Directed by Nancy Meyers ("Something's Gotta Give"). Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. Rated PG-13. Available March 13.

"Harsh Times"

Christian Bale stars a war veteran who's haunted by his experiences in Afghanistan as he tries to start over in L.A. and get a job in law enforcement. With a buddy (Freddy Rodriguez) in tow he ventures off on short trips that show how increasingly volatile and unstable he's become. With Eva Longoria, J.K. Simmons and Terry Crews. Directed by David Ayer. Released by MGM. Rated R.

"I Will Fight No More Forever"

This made-for-TV from 1975 is based on the true story of Chief Joseph of the Nez Piece tribe, who in 1877 refused a government order to move his people to a reservation for Native Americans. Joseph fought a losing battle against U.S. soldiers before leading his tribe on a desperate flight o reach the Canadian border. Starring Ned Romero, James Whitmore and Sam Elliott. Directed by Richard T. Heffron. Released by Questar. Not rated. Available March 13.

"Robin of Sherwood - Set 1"

The first 13 episodes of the BBC series about the English rebel who robs from the rich and gives to the poor features commentaries, a featurette and outtakes. Starring Michael Praed, Judi Trott, Nickolas Grace and Robert Addie. Released by Acorn Media. Not rated. Available March 13.

"Shortbus"

John Cameron Mitchell ("Hedwig and the Angry Inch") directed this comedy about the love lives of straight and gay New Yorkers with a cast of mostly unknowns, some of whom participated in the film's very real sex scenes. Released by Velocity/ThinkFilm. Not rated (contains hardcore sex). Available March 13.





VIDEO GAMES:

"God of War II"

This action game based on Green mythology continues the story of Kratos, a mortal who undertook a quest to become the God of War. Now that he's a deity, Kratos discovers it's not easy being the big man - in fact, it means more fighting against even more terrible foes. Published by Sony Computer Entertainment for PlayStation 2. Rated M. Available March 13.

"Il 2 Sturmovik 1946"

This flight simulation game features 32 new planes and nearly 200 air campaign missions for pilots of the German, Soviet and Japanese air forces. Published by Ubi Soft for PC. Rated T. Available March 13.

"Making History: The Calm & the Storm"

A strategy game that has players head nations during the World War II era, building alliances, economies and making war, of course. Published by Strategy First for PC. Rated E. Available March 13.

"Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07"

This golf game allows players to make real swings using the Wiimote controller on simulations of the some of the world's best-known courses. Published by Electronic Arts for Nintendo Wii (also available for PC, PlayStation 2, PlayStation 3, PlayStation Portable and Xbox 360. Rated E. Available March 13.

"Top Spin 2"

This tennis game allows you to play such stars as Roger Federer, Andy Roddick and Venus Williams, and taunt them as you kick their behinds. Published by Aspyr Media for PC. Rated E. Available March 12.





MUSIC:

Amy Winehouse, "Back to Black": The singer abandons her jazz vocal style in favor of a more R&B sound in her second album. Released by Republic. In stores March 13.

Aqualung, "Memory Man": The one-man instrumentalist otherwise known as Matt Hales goes for more atmospheric sounds but also a couple of upbeat tracks on his second album. Released by Sony. In stores March 13.

The Fratellis, "Costello Music": The Glasgow trio keeps it light and danceable on their debut album that includes 13 songs and lots of fast guitar riffs. Released by Cherry Tree. In stores March 13.

Half Past Forever (featuring Chris Sligh), "Take a Chance on Something Beautiful": "American Idol" contestant Sligh joins emerging band Half Past Forever for this 17-song collaboration. Released by Beat Down Productions. In stores March 13.

Pat Metheny and Brad Mehldau, "Quartet": Guitarist Metheny and pianist Mehldau collaborate for the first time and keep things loose and eclectic. Released by Nonesuch. In stores March 13.

Rosie Thomas, "These Friends Of Mine": The folk singer mixes solid genre sounds with her offbeat sense of humor on this new disc, which includes bits of Thomas's onstage performances as a neck-braced woman named Sheila who's always pining after Leonardo DiCaprio. Released by Nettwerk Records. In stores March 13.

Type O Negative, "Dead Again": The Goth rockers bring you their seventh album of musical darkness. Released by Steamhammer U.S. In stores March 13.

Uncle Earl, "Waterloo, Tennessee": The female quartet explores more old-style American sounds on their sophomore album. Released by Rounder/Umgd. In stores March 13.





TV:

All times are EST/PST.

Sunday, March 11

"Rome": Octavian proclaims a new era of virtue in Rome, but this is HBO, so expect graphic violence and lots of nudity. 10 p.m., HBO.

Monday, March 12

"The Riches": Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver stars in this new show about a family that gets rich by stealing other people's identities. 10 p.m., FX.

Wednesday, March 14

"Halfway Home": A new, mostly improvised show about a bunch of crooks trying to live together in the same halfway house. 10:30 p.m., Comedy Central.

Thursday, March 15

"Addiction": A new 14-part series that looks at addiction and the toll it takes on human lives. Thursday night is the feature-length centerpiece program consisting of nine segments from such noted documentary filmmakers as Albert Maysles, D.A. Pennebaker and Barbara Kopple. 9 p.m., HBO.

"Andy Barker, P.I.": Andy Richter stars in this new comedy about a floundering CPA who begins a double lie when he's mistaken for a private detective. 9:30 p.m., NBC.

"Raines": Jeff Goldblum is Raines, an eccentric LAPD detective who has the unique talent of being able to visualize the crimes he's investigating. 10 p.m., BC.





BOOKS:

Mark Doty, "Dog Years: A Memoir": Poet Doty's memoir about his late, beloved Labs, who helped him through his grief at the death of his lover and gave him years of joy. Published by HarperCollins. In stores March 13.

Jonathan Lethem, "You Don't Love Me Yet": The bass player of an alternative rock group has an affair with a man who provides her with the band's catchiest lines in this farce from the author of "Motherless Brooklyn." Published by Doubleday. In stores March 13.

Anne Perry, "At Some Disputed Barricade": the fourth volume in Perry's series of World War I novels finds the Reavley siblings helping soldiers accused of killing their commanding officer and hunting a mysterious traitor back home in England. Published by Random House. In stores March 13.

Lisa Scottoline, "Daddy's Girl": A law professor finds herself in the middle of a prison riot, then on the run after being accused of murder. Published by HarperCollins. In stores March 13.

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