Given the hugely-congested release schedule over the next seven days, it was tough to whittle down this week's"must list" to only a few select choices. With no less than a dozen new movies (including two highly-anticipated big-studio sequels, one of which I was forced to leave off), five new albums (sorry, "Glee" kids), two major video game launches (maybe next time, "Saint's Row"), guest-star heavy TV episodes and news specials timed for November sweeps (while I'm certainly intrigued, it somehow didn't feel right to include the Diane Sawyer interview with recovering Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as a "must" anything), and new Blu-ray editions of two (very different) classic films (oh Maria, but you do look splendid in your old age), the number of choices was, in a word, overwhelming. Nevertheless, after all was said and done, the following six choices came out on top as our picks for the week of November 14-20.
TUESDAY, NOV. 15:
Drake, "Take Care" [Universal Republic]
Must Factor: Canadian rapper Drake burst onto the scene in 2009 with the mixtape-turned-EP "So Far Gone", which was followed by the platinum success of his critically-acclaimed debut album "Thank Me Later". His star-studded sophomore LP, entitled "Take Care", has been preceded by successful singles "Headlines", "Make Me Proud" (featuring Nicki Minaj) and "Marvin's Room", not to mention several effusive early reviews.
In other words, expect the introspective (and, yes, often unabashedly narcissistic) artist's follow-up to be just as big, if not bigger, than his previous effort - that is, if the online leak of the album last weekend doesn't end up putting a major dent in sales.
HitFix's Fall 2011 music preview can be found by clicking here.
"Headlines" music video (you can read Melinda Newman's track review here):
"Assassin's Creed: Revelations" [Ubisoft]
Must Factor: The final chapter in the "Ezio trilogy", in "Assassin's Creed: Revelations" players will take on the roles of all three major characters in the series thus far: Italian assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze (Renaissance era), Syrian hitman Altair ibn La-Ahad (the Middle Ages) and "present-day" bartender Desmond Miles. In the last of those modes, the game will feature first-person platforming missions, a major change for the (up until now) wholly-third person franchise (which, incidentally, Sony recently bought the rights to for a potential film adaptation).
Fans of the previous entries no doubt already have "Revelations" (one of our "must-play" video games of fall 2011) on their list of must-have titles this fall.
"Evil Dead 2" 25th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray [Lions Gate]
Must Factor: Though it's technically not quite the 25th anniversary of "Evil Dead 2" (the film was first released in March of 1987), Lions Gate is jumping the gun anyway with this new Blu-ray edition of the cult classic horror/comedy, which features an improved high-definition transfer and a slew of never-before-seen features including an all-new making-of documentary entitled "Swallowed Souls" (featuring present-day interviews with over 20 cast and crew members from the original production), all-new audio commentary with cast and crew, an "interactive archive" featuring early special-effects tests and production stills, among other things, and two all-new featurettes, "Road to Wadesboro: The Location of Evil Dead II" and "Cabin Fever: Behind the Scenes of Evil Dead II".
Though the movie was previously released on Blu-ray in 2007 (albeit with an inferior image transfer), if you're one of the film's mega-fans the plethora of new material here nevertheless makes this edition an attractive buy. It might even temporarily take your mind off the needless impending reboot of the series as scripted by Diablo Cody.
WEDNESDAY, NOV. 16:
"The Descendants" [Fox Searchlight]
Must Factor: Writer/director Alexander Payne's first film since his Academy Award-winning 2004 effort "Sideways", "The Descendants" (one of our "can't-miss" fall movies) arrives loaded with high expectations and a raft of good-to-rapturous reviews coming off its earlier screenings at the Telluride, Toronto and New York film festivals. Starring George Clooney as emotionally-absent husband and father Matt King, the film centers on King as he both grapples with a shocking revelation regarding his critically-ill wife (in a coma following a serious boating accident) and the pressure to sell a vast plot of land that's been passed down to him by his Hawaiian ancestors.
Almost certain to garner an Oscar nomination for Clooney (and possibly even one for Shailene Woodley, who plays King's teenage daughter Alexandra), Payne also looks likely for a nod in the Director, Picture (as one of the film's producers) and/or Screenplay categories (he adapted the Kaui Har Hemmings novel of the same name with Nat Faxon and Jim Rash). In any case, this rare effort from the master filmmaker is one of the most heavily-anticipated prestige titles this fall.
Portion of George Clooney interview at the Telluride Film Festival, interspersed with two clips from the film:
FRIDAY, NOV 18:
Must Factor: What's really left to say about director Bill Condon's upcoming installment of the blockbuster teen-fantasy franchise (and one of our "can't-miss" fall movies)? Loyal adherents of the series are going to see "Breaking Dawn" on opening weekend come hell or high water, and with the studio's relentless promotion over the last several months (each and every new poster, image, trailer and film clip released to a breathless flurry of Google searches), quite a few casual fans are likely going to be drawn in as well (some of them, perhaps, in a manner akin to throwing up their hands).
Of course, no matter where on the spectrum you fall - super-fan, sorta-fan, or please-make-it-stop-already cynic - there's simply no way to fully shield yourself from the ongoing "Twilight" mania.
Speaking of which, you can read the transcript of our phone interview with director Bill Condon here.
Our exclusive Robert Pattinson interview:
Kristen Stewart interview:
SATURDAY, NOV 19:
"Saturday Night Live" [NBC, 11:35 PM]
Must Factor: "The Muppets" star Jason Segel hosts the late-night sketch show for the first time this week, with musical guest Florence + the Machine continuing the promotional push for their recently-released second album "Ceremonials", which last week debuted at #6 on the Billboard 200 with over 100,000 copies sold.
Music video for Florence + the Machine's "Shake It Out":