Six Picks: Recommendations from the Monitor staff

Ringside seats for a new Tolkien movie, Jane Yolen's latest poetry book for children, a preview of Fox's fall dramedy, 'Glee,' and more.

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To boldly spoof

You don't have to be a fan of the "Star Trek" films to truly, madly, deeply enjoy the franchise spoof, Galaxy Quest (1999), although it makes the satire that much funnier if you are. Watching Alan Rickman, alien mask half off, excoriating his fellow cast members for the washed-up sellouts they've all become as they prepare to meet their fans at yet another convention, is pitch perfect. But then, so is the entire cast, including Tim Allen as the captain, Sigourney Weaver as the token female, and Tony Shalhoub as the only crew member who truly embraces an alien race. The deluxe edition DVD is now available.

Killer thriller

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Movie star Tom Cruise made a conscious effort to disappear into the ensemble of Valkyrie, hoping to sell the real-life story of the plot to kill Hitler on its own merits. The film was a critical fizzle and box-office dud but is worth a small-screen revisit, if for no other reason than the splendid cast. While Cruise's character moves inexorably toward his fate, a first-rate stable of British actors, including Kenneth Branagh, Tom Wilkinson, and Terence Stamp, quietly and powerfully illuminate the truth that some in Germany desperately tried to lead their country to a different outcome. Out on DVD May 19.

Natural reflections

Celebrate spring with A Mirror to Nature, a beautiful photo/poetry book from a mother-and-son team that seems designed for families to share together. Children will love gazing at Jason Stemple's portraits of living things reflected in water, while their parents read Jane Yolen's accompanying poems. Wood storks, frogs, and less cuddly beasts get their own odes, which are by turns whimsical or wry. Next to a photo of an alligator's jaws twinned in the water, Yolen writes, "One pair/ is real,/ and one/ a reflection./ But I'll never/ give either/ a closer/ inspection."

Ringside seats

Like Trekkies before them, J.R.R. Tolkien fans pooled their talents and resources to create an indie film called The Hunt for Gollum. Inspired by notes in the appendices of Tolkien's classic trilogy, "The Lord of the Rings," the newly released 40-minute movie can be watched for free at www.theHuntforGollum.com.

Beautiful worms

Viruses, worms, trojans, and spyware code defanged – for visual art? Alex Dragulescu, a researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Media Lab, has transformed disassembled code, by way of an algorithm, into virtual 3-D images. Some viruses resemble seaweed or lichen, others, cubism gone wild. It may not take the sting out of seeing your computer crash, but there's beauty in their visualization – http://www.sq.ro/malwarez.php.

Glee-ful comedy

Fox's ambitious new fall season musical dramedy, Glee, sneak previews May 19 at 9 p.m. This darkly funny grab at the Disney "High School Musical" juggernaut from "Nip/Tuck" creator Ryan Murphy is a cracked fairy tale about a woebegone glee club training for a national prize.

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