Author

Vickie An

A shiny car! A washer-dryer! A pony! One overworked 1950s housewife wins these spoils and more in The Prize Winner of Definace, Ohio, a drama that suffers from silver-lining syndrome. Based on the life of Evelyn Ryan (Julianne Moore), whose contest-winning jingles (”Kraft’s Parkay won’t tear fresh bread/Even ice-cold it will smoothly spread”) helped feed her family of 12, it’s a charming true story; but the seesaw between hard knocks and windfalls — You’re evicted, but wait! You’ve just won $5,000! — turns the film into one queasy ride.

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Ziyi Zhang, House of Flying Daggers

In the visually stunning Tang Dynasty-centered House of Flying Daggers, the multitalented Ziyi Zhang (she sings! she dances! she flings daggers with chilling accuracy!) plays Mei, a blind, butt-kicking heroine whose membership in a band of Robin Hood-esque revolutionaries earns her a spot on the government’s naughty list. Now on the lam, Mei and her dashing, secretive guide (Takeshi Kaneshiro) combat more than just bamboo-spear-wielding soldiers: Clashing allegiances cause them to fight against their own inevitably blooming romance.

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EW Reviews a big fat book in 30 seconds flat

EW Reviews a big fat book in 30 seconds flat

In Bound for Canaan, Fergus M. Bordewich delves into the history of the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves from the antebellum South. If the 439-page journey seems daunting, here are some highlights.

· The exact origin of the railroad metaphor remains unknown. Some credit an angry slave owner; others, Emmor Kimber and Elijah Pennypacker, who helped fugitives and developed early railroads around Philadelphia in the 1830s.

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Eisley

This fresh-faced band — comprising four Texas siblings and their bassist friend — sounds more like seasoned pros than industry young ‘uns on their full-length debut. Room Noises charms with refreshing indie-flavored pop-rock fare like ”Marvelous Things” and ”Memories,” which lace subtle guitar/keyboard riffs with sweet (but not syrupy) Lisa Loeb-esque vocals. There’s always room for growth, but this solid first album proves we were right to declare Eisley one of South by Southwest’s 2003 standouts.

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Erasure

Old-school Erasure fans will be swept up by Nightbird, the band’s first original studio album in more than four years. A throwback to the duo’s roots, the disc marks the 20th anniversary of the synth-pop pioneers, with cuts like first single ”Breathe” boasting plenty of their signature mix of jovial electronic rhythms and melancholy vocals. So-so songs like ”No Doubt” dawdle a bit, but composed of more hits than misses, Nightbird soars.

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EW reads ''Collapse'' so you don't have to

In Collapse, Pulitzer-winning author Jared Diamond (Guns, Germs, and Steel) recounts how thriving civilizations of the past vanished from the global radar. If you think you’ll buckle under all 525 pages, here are some highlights.

Thanks to a high-carb diet and heavy consumption of sugarcane juice, Easter Island natives had the highest incidence of cavities among any known prehistoric people — most had tooth decay by age 20.

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Virginia Madsen's favorite ''Sideways'' moment

Golden Globe nominee Virginia Madsen is a poet of the red carpet. ”What,” we asked her at this month’s indie-loving Gotham Awards, ”was your favorite moment on Sideways?” the night’s best-feature winner, in which she plays the true-hearted object of Paul Giamatti’s affections. Her answer so warmed the cockles of our jaded hearts that we print it here in its entirety.

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Celebrity news for the week of Nov. 19, 2004

ENGAGED

The Station Agent actor Peter Dinklage, 35, and theater director Erica Schmidt, 28, plan to wed. No date has been set.

WEDDINGS

Proving yet again that hot chicks dig rock stars, blink-182 drummer Travis Barker, 29, wed former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, 29, Oct. 30. It is her first marriage, his second.

EXPECTING

Eric Clapton, 59, and wife Melia, 28, will greet their third child in January, to join siblings Julie Rose, 3, and Ella Mae, 1. Clapton has one child from a previous relationship.

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Celebrity news for the week of October 8, 2004

WEDDINGS

You know it’s true: Everything he do, he do it for her. On Sept. 25 Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves star Kevin Costner, 49, married longtime girlfriend, handbag designer Christine Baumgartner, 30, at his Colorado ranch. It is his second marriage, her first.

BIRTHS

Actor Billy Bob Thornton (Friday Night Lights), 49, and his special-effects technician girlfriend, Connie Angland, 39, welcomed a daughter, Bella, Sept. 22. Thornton has three children from two previous marriages.

PREMIERE

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