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Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Revel in newly restored "Pinocchio" on DVD, crack up reading Gil McNeil's latest novel, test your trivia with a new video game, and more.

March 13, 2009

Courtesy of World Music Network

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A 'hero' for our times

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Is America ready for divinely anointed kings and princes inhabiting the modern-day kingdom of Shiloh – a glistening, skyscraper-filled city that looks remarkably like Manhattan? Tune in for this updated biblical story of a young David Shepherd and King Silas Benjamin on NBC at 8 p.m, March 15. With an A-list cast that includes Ian McShane (Golden Globe winner for HBO's "Deadwood") and Susanna Thompson ("Once & Again"), Kings is a gamble for the peacock network, but the dramatic series based on the history and politics of an earlier, God-centered time might be the distraction that a recession-weary populace will embrace.

Come on, cheer up!

Mike Leigh's funny-sad film Happy-Go-Lucky – just out on DVD – introduces us to Poppy, a quirky 30-year-old elementary school teacher with unsquelchable optimism. When her roommate tells her that she can't make everybody happy, she responds, "There's no harm in trying, is there?" Sally Hawkins's performance is pitch perfect in this gem of a movie – and shouldn't be missed.

Care to tango?

Bypassing most major inventors of this genre, The Rough Guide to Tango: Second Edition (World Music Network), a two-CD album, offers instead a heady overview of neo-tango. The high drama of daredevil violin and bandoneon (accordion) remains constant. New touches include washes of electronica, jazzy saxophone solos, vocal sampling, and chanted poetry. This experimentation never strays far from the feeling of romantic angst at tango's heart, and leathery vocals by Adriana Varela and Daniel Melingo never sound too world-weary for one more stab at romance on the dance floor.

Game on

G-rated party favorite Trivial Pursuit just launched its latest incarnation – on the three major video-game platforms, Microsoft's Xbox 360, Sony's PS3, and the Nintendo Wii. With three different levels of play and Internet connectivity that allow players to download new packs of questions, this is the party game for the digital generation (from Electronic Arts).

Knit one, turn page

How's this for a bad day: Jo MacKenzie's husband announces he's leaving her for another woman and then dies in a car accident – leaving her emotionally stranded somewhere between furious divorcée and grieving widow. "You know you're in trouble when there isn't a support group," sighs Jo in The Beach Street Knitting Society and Yarn Club, a warmly winning second-chance novel by Gil McNeil. Financially strapped, Jo moves her two boys back to her hometown and takes over her grandmother's yarn shop. Smartly written, "Beach Street" is also very, very funny.

Nothing wooden about this classic

Tired of "even more special editions" of DVDs? Make an exception for the new 70th anniversary edition of Pinocchio. The adventures of a wooden puppet and his cricket conscience is considered by many to be the pinnacle of Disney's hand-drawn animation. Thanks to a gorgeous digital restoration, a viewer can easily see why. Even on a 20-inch TV, the scenes glow like oil paintings. On a 50-inch plasma, you'd need sunglasses. Extras include a new documentary, "No Strings Attached," and storyboards of deleted scenes.

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