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The Raven takes flight

What's coming up in the week ahead

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"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.



Big release: The Raven (April 27)

Big picture: It's Seven meets Sherlock Holmes meets John Cusack with a creepy goatee. In The Raven, Cusack plays writer Edgar Allan Poe, who matches wits with a serial killer. The catch? The murders appear ripped from the pages of Poe's own macabre stories and poetry. You know the way cutesy, big-name child actors quietly vanish when they get a little "less cute"? The same thing happens with cutesy, middle-aged rom-com actors (eg. Hugh Grant). But less-cutesy John Cusack has found a way to stave of the vanishing act: Starring in horror, thriller and disaster films.

At one point, the lead investigator (Luke Evans) tells Poe "Your imagination is the inspiration for a horrendous crime." Funny. I've been wanting to say those same words to director Michael Bay (Transformers, Pearl Harbor) for years.

Forecast: A 19th-century serial killer motivated by the works of a classic American writer? If The Raven takes flight at the box office, I can certainly think of other literature-driven serial killers for the big screen. (For example, reading Margaret Atwood often drives me to semi-madness.) As for Cusack, I can only imagine that, in The Raven's final scene, he lures the killer into the open with one of his old rom-com tricks: a ghetto blaster held high, playing Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes.

Honourable mention: The Five-Year Engagement. It's good to see Jason Segel in a film without talking puppets (I love the Muppets, but no one wants to be typecast as a puppet sidekick). His counterpart in this rom-com about an endless engagement is Britain's Emily Blunt, an actress effortlessly charming in just about everything.



Big event: The Big C (HBO, April 27, 8 ET/7 PT).

Big picture: Three-time Emmy winner Laura Linney returns in her dark, comedy series, The Big C. It takes guts to tackle taboo topics -- cancer and mortality -- with laughter. Linney plays a suburban housewife diagnosed with cancer, shaking up her reserved, structured lifestyle. Facing her own mortality with hope and humour, Linney also lets loose, often telling family and friends what's really on her mind.

Forecast: Linney is one of the best actresses on TV, and is buoyed by a fine supporting cast that includes Oliver Platt as her immature, endearing husband. A show that often finds levity in sad and dark places, The Big C can also be tender and insightful. While shows like Game of Thrones and True Blood often steal the limelight, The Big C is evidence that good TV need not be fantasy, it can be grounded in the everyday human experience.



Big release on April 24: Jack White (Blunderbuss)

Big picture: He's the Jack of all musical trades, and master of . . . ALL of them. White's first solo album is infused with elements of almost every genre -- from rockabilly blues (I'm Shaking) and old country (Blunderbuss) to vaudeville (Hip 'Eponymous' Poor Boy). While the musical mix is wide-ranging and eclectic, the lyrics are firmly steeped in his recent divorce from Karen Elson (who, oddly enough, offers backing vocals on the album).

Forecast: The term "White as a ghost," has a whole new meaning: This album conjures up the spirits of America's musical past. One particular standout: Trash Tongue Talker could have been a lost track from The Rolling Stones' classic album, Exile on Main Street.

For White Stripes fans yearning for new material, Sixteen Saltines is the closest thing to something from the band's classic sound. But amid the pounding drums and fuzzy electric guitar, the Stripes also recorded many little gems steeped in older musical traditions. It is that side of White's persona -- the musical historian -- on display in his lone wolf effort.

This Blunderbuss is nearly error free.

Honourable mentions: Dean Brody (Dirt). The country boy from Smithers, B.C., returns with his third album, Dirt, a likely contender for best country album at next year's Junos. Brody also offers "keen" insight into the mindset of the Canadian female on the effort's first single, Canadian Girls. Sample lyrics: "She can wear high heels and flannel / She can look sexy in a toque / She likes snow storms and Gordon Lightfoot / And if you're lucky she'll love you." (Edgar Allan Poe is rolling over in his grave.)


-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 22, 2012 ??65525

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