The Beatles' first movie, the black and white masterpiece A Hard Day's Night (1964), captured the young rockers at their playfully anarchic best. And they quickly followed it up with another carefree romp, Help! (1965), this time in full-blast pop art hues, here now restored on DVD to its intended palette of bright primary colors. The American-born Richard Lester helmed both films, but the second was an even greater challenge since it pretended to have a plot, and the Beatles, for their part, pretended to act. The inspired silliness of the film (much fueled by copious pot-smoking, we learn in the DVD extras) follows the boys across continents as Ringo is pursued for his unusual sacrificial ring, a monstrous bauble he can't get off his finger. The supporting cast includes the bulbous-faced Leo McKern (best known for his subsequent long-running role as "Rumpole of the Bailey") as the high priest of some cockamamie Eastern religion; Eleanor Bron as his sultry and duplicitous assistant; and Victor Spinetti as a deranged and underfunded scientist, hoping to rule the world. But the Fabulous Four remain constant in the foreground, goofing off in their ultra-hip pad, sliding all over the Swiss Alps, and soaking up rays in the Bahamas. Seven great songs punctuate this absurdist drama, and each one seems to have presented Lester with a new challenge, as he discovers different styles of matching sounds and images that anticipate everything familiar to us now on MTV. It's no wonder that the channel recognized Lester as its true father, nor that he in turn demanded a paternity test. -

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.