Winter break provides the time and means to catch up on what’s happening in entertainment. I hit books, movies, music and TV hard over break, and I offer you a few musings on what I found in my endeavors.

Kelso beats Frodo

If the past weekend in film is indicative of anything at all, it’s that well-marketed mediocrity appeals to a large subset of the American public. How else could you explain one of the worst-reviewed films of the year, “Just Married,” displacing “The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers”?

“The Two Towers” was, and still is, the epic to end all epics. Receipt totals are astronomical, and the decidedly dense storyline and beautiful backdrops had Tolkien fans screaming, “More, more, more!” even if the average fan had a difficult time following or staying awake for the duration of the marathon film.

Since its debut last month, not a single film, including Steven Spielberg’s ultra-stylish and comical “Catch Me If You Can,” could get within striking distance of the box-office monster.

Well, until Kelso showed up.

As a star of “That 70s Show,” Ashton Kutcher portrays the intellectual equivalent of a meatloaf. Kutcher, star of the humiliating sham that was “Dude, Where’s My Car?” (regrettably, a sequel is in the works), and costar/occasional Eminem groupie Brittany Murphy have fooled the public — better yet, roughly 2.25 million Americans last weekend — into purchasing tickets to a film that is averaging between zero and one stars in most reviews.

Oh yeah, “Just Married” is the No. 1 movie in America. At least if Spielberg had beat LOTR, the public would have understood — but he didn’t.

It’s like “Melrose Place”: No one’s watching, but the ratings say otherwise. Eighteen million dollars, the No. 1 spot at the box office and a healthy profit — what’s wrong with the movies, and who’s paying to see this movie?

Hipper than thou and sk8er girl makes good

By now I’ve made most of you aware of the fact that I don’t care for “The” bands or other bands that demand their fans to dress the part or be ridiculed. I don’t like foreign artists with manufactured attitude or emo phonies who wear Shrinky Dinks on their jackets.

Most of the same bands pop up on all of the critics’ year-end lists, and some lists look like they were lifted just for the sake of someone looking like they’re in the know about what’s going on in the music world.

For a majority of these records, the common person has never heard of them, and it’s almost like a battle to find out what freelancer can come up with the most obscure band to place on his or her list. All in all, there’s only so many times you can put Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots on your list while simultaneously making references and comparisons to Beck.

Long story short, I heard Avril Lavigne’s CD over break — this girl has potential. The album has too many mid-tempo ballads and is a little heavy on the tongue-in-cheek lyrics, but she’s real and has a range that could make her a major player in the mainstream rock market.

She’s sold more records than a solar-powered calculator can count, but she can play an instrument, really sing and write her own music. I give her props for destroying the silicone bunnies that built massive fortunes and egos with no true musical talent.

Firing up the picture tube

Unfortunately, many of you probably missed what was perhaps the funniest and grossest television event of the season. Would you believe that the Travel Channel televised this surprise hit?

The IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating) hosted the “Vegas: Battle of the Buffets” taped at the Spice Market Buffet in the Aladdin Hotel. Six contestants consumed a revolting amount of food in a speed-eating competition that saw 130-pound lightweight Rich LeFevre disqualified for vomiting and two 400+-pound men eating dessert until their intestines nearly ruptured.

This is a truly a sport that requires training. Catch the replay of this amazing feat of athleticism on the Travel Channel, Saturday, Jan. 18 at 9 p.m.

The action hit “24” continues to be the best show on television. I said it once and I’ll say it again — if only “The Sopranos” could be so engaging. “24” is pedal-to-the-metal for a full hour, devoid of melodrama and historical references.

For the most part, the thick veil of mediocrity screens the light of quality entertainment from accessing the eyes and ears of the public. The result is that people consume whatever is out there, “Just Married” being a prime example. As the Travel Channel proved, good entertainment can come from the most unlikely of sources; you just have to keep your eyes and ears open.