This holiday week is predictably filled with new releases aimed at holiday shoppers, including new releases from both a best-selling pop diva that has everyone "Talk"ing and a legendary singer-songwriter who's so far-out she'd give Lady Gaga a run for her money. Speaking of Mother Monster, be sure and carve out a place for her in your Thanksgiving plans this year, as the pop superstar has a new special that's sure to bring the whole family closer (in front of the TV set, anyway). For cineasts, meanwhile, we've got two wildly different picks - one a dark historical drama, the other a light-hearted family film - while shut-ins can take a load off with a hot new gaming title featuring musclebound men in spandex and/or the latest episode of a hit genre series not called "American Horror Story".
MONDAY, NOV. 21:
Rihanna, "Talk That Talk" [Def Jam]
Must Factor: Given that she's only been around since 2005, it's a wonder that Rihanna is already coming out with her sixth studio album, "Talk That Talk", which has racked up a few positive early reviews - including one from our own Melinda Newman - prior to its Monday launch (though the album has been streaming in full on her Facebook page since Friday). There's no doubt Rihanna is one of the most prominent pop divas currently in the game, and her latest set is a must-have for those whose tastes run closer to the "Top 40" end of the music spectrum - and probably quite a few who fall outside that designation as well.
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Kate Bush, "50 Words For Snow" [Fish People]
Must Factor: The idiosyncratic British singer/songwriter is back with her tenth studio LP and her second this year, though unlike "Director's Cut" the material on "50 Words For Snow" is wholly new. The album is a typically experimental effort from Bush, with first single "Wild Man" telling the story of a group of explorers who discover the existence of the mythical Yeti (aka the Abominable Snowman) and cover up his footprints so his existence won't be found out. The literate songstress has a rabid cult of fans who are no doubt itching to get their hands on the full LP (she's not as prolific as her output this year suggests), while people who aren't as familiar with Bush's work but who like their music weird will likely find much to admire here as well.
TUESDAY, NOV. 22:
"WWE '12" [THQ]
Must Factor: This highly-anticipated wrestling title is one of our must-play games this fall, and a definite priority for fans of the long-running "Smackdown vs. Raw" series. It's been described by our gaming contributor Michael D'Alonzo as "bigger, badder and better than ever before", with an enormous cast of playable characters (including legends both past and present) and new enhanced gameplay features that may just make this the best game in the franchise yet.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 23:
"The Muppets" [Walt Disney Pictures]
Must Factor: In case you've been living someplace over the last few months where the relentless Disney marketing team wasn't able to reach you, I'm here to give a friendly reminder that the Muppets are returning to the big screen this week just in time for Thanksgiving! This all-new adventure was co-written by "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" star Jason Segel, who co-stars alongside Amy Adams, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and all the rest of Jim Henson's beloved Muppet characters. In a fall movie season normally weighted down with dreary awards-bait fare it's often tough to find light-hearted films that are actually good, but based on the positive critical response so far (Drew, for one, loved it) "The Muppets" may turn out to be just the ticket this holiday season for both the young and the young at heart.
You can read Kristopher Tapley's interview with co-screenwriter Nicholas Stoller here.
Toshi's heart-crushingly adorable interview with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy:
"A Dangerous Method" [Sony Pictures Classics]
Must Factor: Speaking of dreary awards-bait fare, David Cronenberg has a new film out this week that centers on the fraught personal and professional relationship between Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortenson) and his mentor Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), in addition to Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), the woman who eventually comes between them. Even further removed than, say, "A History of Violence" from Cronenberg's early "body-horror" output like "Videodrome" and "The Fly" (will we ever see a sequel?), "A Dangerous Method" has been described by some critics (including our own Drew McWeeny) as the director's most restrained film yet. In any case, Cronenberg's career has never proven anything less than interesting, and with three potent stars in the lead roles - including 2011 "It Boy" Michael Fassbender - it's a tough one to resist for serious film fans.
THURSDAY, NOV. 24:
"A Very Gaga Thanksgiving" [ABC, 9:30 PM]
Must Factor: Perhaps the last holiday one would ever think to associate with the reigning queen of pop is Thanksgiving, but Lady Gaga's fans will no doubt be thankful anyway for Mother Monster's new holiday special "A Very Gaga Thanksgiving". Join the quirky singer, why don't you, for a festive evening filled with music, laughter, and - knowing Gaga - tears, followed by a one-on-one sit-down interview with former CBS Evening News anchor Katie Couric. Besides, isn't it about time this girl got a little exposure?
Are you one of Gaga's little Monsters? Sign up for instant alerts over at our Lady Gaga fanpage.
SUNDAY, NOV. 27:
"The Walking Dead" [AMC, 9 PM]
Must Factor: After a long weekend spent eating too much food, putting up with the idle chatter of family members and overdosing on a slew of new movie releases, take some time out for yourself on Sunday night to settle in for a new episode of AMC's "The Walking Dead", which also just so happens to be the last of the first half of this season. Will our band of motley survivors finally find Sophia? Will Lori tell Rick about her pregnancy? And just what exactly are those rabid zombies being held in the barn for, anyway? Prepare yourself for maddening cliffhangers galore.
For all the latest updates on the series, be sure to check out our "Walking Dead" fanpage here and sign up for HitFix's instant alerts.