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‘Beowulf’ is this week’s must-see movie

New season of ‘Project Runway,’ Led Zeppelin's new compilation CD also among best offerings.
/ Source: contributor


There is a classic “Seinfeld” episode in which George has to read “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” for a book-club assignment, but he takes the easy way out and watches the movie instead. Later, he is exposed in front of the book club when he is informed that the George Peppard character is gay, and that Peppard himself isn’t in the book. Alas, I believe we’re in for a lot more of Costanza behavior when “Beowulf” comes out this week. Long thought to be far too dense to be successfully adapted to the screen (although it has been filmed before in some forms), director Robert Zemeckis has taken the epic English poem and given it the digital treatment, jazzing up the story of Beowulf the hero taking on the monster Grendel. Ray Winstone does the voice of Beowulf, which is bound to be revealed soon in some book club somewhere. (Paramount Pictures, opens Friday)


I always wondered what went on behind the scenes in the world of high fashion. I don’t know much about this realm because I don’t dress well, and I like to eat a lot, which would keep me off the runway and, for that matter, out of the building. But thanks to “Project Runway,” the reality series, I now understand the inner workings. There is intense competition, petty jealousies, severe anxiety and outfits most people wouldn’t be caught dead in. This week the show begins its fourth season as supermodel Heidi Klum along with Tim Gunn help a whole new band of contestants fight each other for the opportunity to showcase their wares during New York’s prestigious Fashion Week. Put a bunch of ruthlessly ambitious fashionistas on a show with scissors and pins in their hands and I’m there. (Bravo, Wednesday, 10 p.m.)


Led Zeppelin had to postpone its upcoming reunion concert because Jimmy Page broke his finger. But that is not the only recent Led Zep news, just the most painful. The group has a couple of releases coming up, including “Mothership,” a new compilation CD with 24 of their classic tracks. The three remaining members — Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones — went into the studio and remastered these songs down to the last violin-bow screech. The result is a collection that will cause diehard Zeppelin fans to rock anew. Some of the more notable re-done cuts are “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” “When The Levee Breaks” and “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” Be aware, Zep addicts, that there are two versions of this, one a two-disk audio CD and, for a few dollars more, another package with an additional DVD featuring more songs and some concert footage of the boys. It’s the kind of set Page himself would rip open and listen to immediately, if he didn’t have that broken digit. (Atlantic)


Biopics can sometimes make even the most fascinating lives seem dull by their very formulaic nature. But “La Vie En Rose” is an exception. Famed French singer Edith Piaf is deftly portrayed in director Olivier Dahan’s mesmerizing film. And this is not one of those movie experiences where you sit there and predict exactly what’s going to happen next because this features a story structure that is almost as exotic as Piaf herself. Marion Cotillard gives a performance for the ages, helping to illuminate one of the more mysterious and tragic lives in the history of music and entertainment. “La Vie En Rose” is out on DVD this week. The film is terrific, the extras not so much — just one featurette on Cotillard’s work in creating Piaf for the screen. But she is so good that one mini documentary lasts a long time, as does the satisfaction from Dahan’s film. (HBO Video)


It is safe to say that Pablo Picasso led a full life. This fact was not lost on John Richardson. Indeed, very few facts about Picasso eluded Richardson, who decided the artist was worth more than one measly biography. So he wrote three, each bearing the partial title, “A Life of Picasso,” and each representing a different phase of his career. The latest is “A Life of Picasso: The Triumphant Years, 1917-1932.” For art buffs, this picks up after his foray into Cubism, which occupied much of volume II, and covers his exploration of classicism and his fascination with sculpture. Picasso was not only bigger than life to outsiders, he compared himself to the Greek gods, and while that may seem a tad self-absorbed, he had the body of acclaimed work, the legions of admirers and the financial success to at least make that audacious case. “A Life of Picasso” is the definitive look at the life of an artist who was also a showman and an icon. When you think about the breadth of his contributions to culture, it’s surprising Richardson was able to cram that all into just three books. (Knopf)