BIG RELEASE: Rise of the Guardians (Nov. 21)
BIG PICTURE: It's enough to make a Hallmark executive's head explode: The Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy together at last! Add the Sandman and Jack Frost into the mix and you have the Guardians, a superhero team made up of childhood legends. In this animated extravaganza, these five ancient powers must unite to save the world's children from a great evil. Rise of the Guardians is just like The Avengers, only minus the irony, The Hulk and Robert Downey's Jr's irresistible showboating for the camera.
FORECAST: The only thing missing from this movie is an Avengers crossover: Who hasn't always wanted to see The Hulk fight the Easter Bunny? But this movie won me over when I found out that Alec Baldwin voices the sword-wielding Old Saint Nick (he goes by North in the movie). Baldwin as Santa? I always had my suspicions. I guess I'll be leaving Scotch and a cigar under my chimney this year.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Life of Pi (Nov. 21). This movie is about a boy shipwrecked on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger. When I first heard the premise, I thought we were finally getting the untold Charlie Sheen origin story. The tiger blood? The assassin skills? All explained by Charlie's four-legged mentor from childhood! The truth is this Ang Lee film is based on the award-winning novel by Canada's Yann Martel. It's the touching story of the son of a zookeeper stranded in the open sea and fighting for survival alongside a highly unlikely companion.
BIG EVENT: BAD 25 (Nov. 22, CTV Two, 8:30 p.m.
BIG PICTURE: Spike Lee pays tribute to Michael Jackson's iconic album on its 25th anniversary. And he doesn't do it alone. The director interviews Jackson's collaborators like Quincy Jones and Stevie Wonder, as well as modern superstars who were inspired by Jackson such as Kanye West, Justin Bieber and Cee Lo Green. Confession: Jackson's Bad album inspired me to wear a black leather jacket with silver buckles as my "go to" date jacket during high school. It was sadly ineffective at convincing any girl I was "bad." Michael could pull it off, but he should have warned the rest of us.
FORECAST: BAD 25 premiered at TIFF but this is the doc's Canadian television premiere. With archival footage from studio sessions and video music shoots, the film offers a unique glimpse into the makings of one of the most treasured pop albums of all-time. (I'm still waiting for Justin Bieber to emulate MJ and come out with his "Rad" album.)
HONOURABLE MENTION: Mankind: The Story of All of Us (Nov. 19, History, 8 p.m. This 12-part series tells the history of the human race -- the epic tale of how we went from primitive hunter-gatherers to sophisticated hunter-gatherers of homemade animal videos and sex tapes on the Internet. Mankind will cover our species major milestones, including the fall of Rome, the discovery of the New World, the Industrial Revolution... and, presumably, the discovery of Channing Tatum's abs.
BIG RELEASE ON NOV. 20: Rihanna (Unapologetic)
BIG PICTURE: This album is meant to be deeply personal and, well... unapologetic. Rihanna's controversial ballad with Chris Brown, Nobodies Business, certainly hits that point home. The cover art also sums it up nicely. Rihanna's naked body is strategically covered with words, including "love, happy, fearless, chalice, victory, fun, censored, diamonds, #navy" and, of course, "unapologetic." I have no doubt that Madonna's next album will offer a copycat cover with words like "desperate, relevant, still sexy, please pay attention to me" and "hey, does anyone own a time machine?" scrawled across Madge's body.
FORECAST: Rihanna's seventh studio album will feature a steady mix of "dear diary" confessional ballads and body-moving club tracks. Rihanna fans will embrace it and it will displace Taylor Swift in the charts. But those turned off by the artist's forgiveness of Brown's violent behaviour may be unapologetic in their choice to tune it out.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Kid Rock (Rebel Soul); Kelly Clarkson (Greatest Hits -- Chapter One). A couple of questions to ponder: Why do "rebel souls" often have such terrible hair? Secondly, does a 30-year-old with five albums under her belt really need a Greatest Hits album?
"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows," but these days, a guide through the seemingly endless flurry of pop culture is just what we need. With that in mind, here is what's on the radar screen in TV, music and film for the coming week.