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Imaginative ‘Kung Fu Panda’ is a Can’t Miss

This new animated feature from DreamWorks leaves a wannabe kung-fu expert — in panda form — to save the day. The series "Swingtown" and Lewis Black's new book are also hot picks.
/ Source: msnbc.com contributor

Movies

I wonder what hallucinogenic was at work when an individual watched a panda chew bamboo and generally lie around the zoo and said to themself, “What if he were a martial artist?” At the very least, “Kung Fu Panda” is the result of an extremely vivid imagination. Another animated feature from the DreamWorks mill, it tells the story of Po the Panda (voiced by Jack Black), a waiter at a noodle emporium who fancies himself a kung fu expert. Enter villains, who threaten everyone’s way of life, and suddenly it is up to Po to shape up and ship them out. Remember that old song that went, “Everybody was kung fu fighting”? Well, now that there’s a panda involved, everybody truly is. (DreamWorks, opens Friday)

Television

Molly Parker (left) and Miriam Shor of the CBS series SWINGTOWN, premiering Thursday, June 5th (10:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network. Photo: Michael Yarish/CBS ©2007 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved.Michael Yarish / CBS ENTERTAINMENT

It should be noted that “Swingtown” will air at 10 p.m. The young kids should be tucked in bed and asleep by then. The older ones will probably be out somewhere worrying you sick. So to keep your mind off them, this new series deals with the social and sexual changes that occur in an upscale Chicago suburb around 1976. One couple moves into the area and discovers that a neighbor couple look somewhat like the hot-tub pair in those provocative Jack in the Box commercials, and they act like them, too, if that spot were extended from 30 seconds to an hour or two. Plenty of suggestive stuff here, so make sure the older kids don’t come home until after 11. (CBS, Thursday, 10 p.m.)

Music

Hurricane Katrina is still messing with people’s lives, and Dr. John is only too happy to remind those outside of New Orleans and the rest of the affected Gulf area that the disaster exists even if it’s no longer prominent in the daily news cycle. In his new CD, “City That Care Forgot,” the Big Easy native enlists some powerful musical forces (Eric Clapton, Willie Nelson, Ani DiFranco, Terence Blanchard) to help illuminate the crisis that still exists down there, with tracks such as “Promises, Promises,” “Time For A Change,” “Stripped Away” and “We Getting’ There.” This is considered some of Dr. John’s best work in years, and fortunately it’s work that’s being put toward a good cause. (429 Records)

DVD

Recently, Clint Eastwood announced that he wouldn’t consider doing another “Dirty Harry” sequel. Good thing, since the man just celebrated his 78th birthday on Saturday and, although he appears to be in tip-top shape, he should be handling a golf club rather than a .44 Magnum. “Dirty Harry Ultimate Collector’s Edition” is out on DVD this week, with all five films of the series as well as loads of extras that include a feature-length documentary on Clint plus reproduction lobby cards and a hardcover book. There’s even a metal badge. You can put it on, point your finger at some low-life and say, “You’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” Just don’t do it to the guy at the video store. He probably won’t get it. (Warner Home Video)

Books

Lewis Black has a tendency to be sarcastic. I’ve been meaning to mention this to him, but I’m afraid if I do, he’ll stop. It’s the kind of sarcasm we need because he doesn’t just skewer people, he then takes the skewer and roasts them over an open fire while he spits on them. He’s a riot on “The Daily Show” with his “Back in Black” segments, as well as his one-man shows. And now he has a new book called “Me of Little Faith,” in which he takes on organized religion. He is not a devotee. He’s especially angry about the hypocrisy he often observes in the self-righteous, especially when it comes to politicians who turn to religion when they need their pockets filled. Jon Stewart describes this book thusly: “Lewis Black is the only person I know who can actually yell in print form.” And you’ll laugh while he’s yelling. (Riverhead)