BIG RELEASE: The Great Gatsby (May 10)
BIG PICTURE: Trade in the Chocolate Factory for a lavish mansion -- and the Oompa Loompas for sultry, young women in the Roaring Twenties -- and The Great Gatsby is basically Willy Wonka. Both characters are charming, extravagant, secretive and borderline mad. Furthermore, they have larger-than-life appetites that can't be satiated (though throwing lavish parties seems like a better path to self-destruction. I assume there are only so many times you can bathe in a chocolate waterfall before it gets old). Leonardo DiCaprio is perfectly cast in this cinematic remake of F. Scott Fitzgerald's famous novel. Meanwhile, Tobey Maguire plays Gatsby's neighbor Nick Carraway (the "Charlie" of my little equation), who is handed a "golden ticket" into Gatsby's world. In the hands of Baz Luhrmann (Romeo + Juliet, Moulin Rouge), this remake promises style, colour and visual panache. Carey Mulligan adds to the stellar cast as Daisy Buchanan, the ill-fated object of Gatsby's poisoned affections.
FORECAST: This is the fifth time The Great Gatsby has been turned into a film. But thanks to 3-D, and Baz Luhrmann's knack for visual tricks, it may very well be the first one embraced by the stoner community.
BIG EVENT: Family Tree (HBO Canada, May 12, ET/ 8:30 p.m.)
BIG PICTURE: Is there anything better than a Christopher Guest mockumentary? The acclaimed creator of documentary-style comic masterpieces such as Best In Show and Waiting for Guffman unveils a new, single-camera miniseries that follows hard-luck Londoner Tom Chadwick (Chris O'Dowd), a broken man who discovers a chest of mysterious contents from his great aunt. They spur him to doggedly trace his family tree and lead to a reunion with potential long-lost relatives in California. Co-creator and writer Jim Piddock guest stars.
FORECAST: If its laughter you're looking to harvest, this is one tree worth climbing.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Rihanna 777 (May 6, Fox, 8 p.m.) The trailer uses a lot of bold letters punctuated by loud bursts of percussion. ONE WOMAN TAKES ON THE WORLD. I assume this is meant to tell us HOW. IMPORTANT. THIS. SPECIAL. IS. You'd think Rihanna invented both the airplane, world tours -- and electricity! This Fox special covers the controversial singer's recent tour of "seven shows in seven countries in seven days" -- in which select fans and international journalists joined the mercurial star on a 777 jet on a journey even scarier than Oceanic Flight 815. The audience is treated to an inside view of the chaotic tour -- one that was beset by show delays and stir-crazy journalists. Rihanna's Unapologetic tour lived up to its name for journalists, who were essentially put under lockdown for the trip. At one point, the touring journalists chanted for "just one quote" after not getting a glimpse of Rihanna other than her stage appearances. Those on-board this 777 not only travelled to Stockholm on Rihanna's tour, but also may have left it suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
BIG RELEASES ON MAY 7: Vampire Weekend (Modern Vampires of the City), She & Him (Volume 3)
BIG PICTURE: I know what you're thinking, but Modern Vampires of the City is not some kind of genre crossover of Sex and the City and Twilight (though I'm sure that hybrid is already being story-boarded by a group of pasty writers in a secret, underground Hollywood bunker). This album is another likely masterpiece from Vampire Weekend, an acclaimed group of Brooklyn indie rockers. Vampire Weekend's unique brand of sunny indie rock -- infused with influences that include jazz, classical and African instrumentation -- is a few notes deeper (and darker) this time around. The new effort finds the band mining material more fitting to their namesake. Speaking of namesakes, She & Him live up to theirs. The unlikely and highly effective duo of actress Zooey Deschanel and indie-rock wizard M. Ward continue to impress with their third album of timeless retro pop. Deschanel's "adorkable," over-the-top persona on the sitcom New Girl is restrained in her music -- which is stripped down, sparse and downright magical. As the band's heart and soul, Deschanel isn't an actress playing a musician.
FORECAST: How can I not endorse a band that combines two of my all-time favourite things -- vampires and weekends? Sink your teeth in. Meanwhile, something about Zooey and M. Ward just seems to click. My prediction? M. Ward will make an inevitable New Girl cameo as a shaggy-haired, hipster rival for her character's affections.
HONOURABLE MENTION: Deerhunter (Monomania), Lady Antebellum (Golden). Deerhunter gets my vote for album title of the year. The experimental rock outfit from Atlanta is another of indie music's finest and this brooding, innovative effort is bound for critic's Top 10 lists. Meanwhile, Lady Antebellum is the heavyweight band of the week. Given the sales and Grammy Award haul of their last effort, Own The Night, the pop country group certainly has the right to call its new album Golden.
DISHONOURABLE MENTION: 98 Degrees (2.0). The '90s boy band, led by Nick Lahey, is releasing their first effort in 10 years. (Sorry gentlemen, I'm holding out for version 6.0. I think I'll be safely old and deaf by the time that album is inflicted upon us).
"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 offerings
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.