HITS Daily Double
In a note of typical biting-the-hand-that-feeds-him irony, Young presents a Clear Channel billboard that reads, “Support Our War,” as a central plot device, which is pretty cheeky, since the broadcast/
concert conglom is promoting his current tour.


Caution: You Are Now Entering an Irony-Free Zone; Beware of Deep Sincerity Potholes
During the last week, we had the great good fortune to see two superb artists from opposite ends of the generational spectrum in the midst of inspired career moments. During their performances, the ageless Neil Young displayed an undiminished vitality, while the precocious John Mayer demonstrated that he’s well on his way to filling out his XXXL potential. Each played to tuned-in, adoring crowds gathered together on balmy midsummer nights, and people went home happy, carrying with them vivid memories and the right to say, “I saw him when…” It’s nights like these that make this once-thrilling, now-dispiriting business endurable.

Neil Young & Crazy Horse in Greendale, with Lucinda Williams, at the Greek Theatre
: Sort of an herb-filled, agitprop-rock opera, Neil Young’s conceptual theater work Greendale combines the daring of playing 10 all-new songs live—like Tonight’s the Night—with the narrative drive and innovative homespun staging of Rust Never Sleeps. Clad in a Greendale High T-shirt and a true belief in these characters’ reality, Young presents a two-hour show that centers on a mythical Northern California town whose back-story is painstakingly recreated by more than 30 onstage performers. The cast is a true family affair, featuring wife Pegi and his three kids, with son Zeke appearing onstage in his wheelchair for the grand finale and touchingly grooving to the beat.

The song cycle is Hair meets Our Town, set against a series of multimedia tableaux with two-dimensional cutout automobiles and projected images telling a tale of generational conflict, media exploitation, environmental waste and a desire for a return to good, old-fashioned hippie values. The various themes touch on all of Young’s obsessions in a decidedly nonlinear, but intuitive manner, with the characters often mouthing the words being sung by Neil. In a note of typical biting-the-hand-that-feeds-him irony, Young presents a Clear Channel billboard that reads, “Support Our War,” as a central plot device, which is pretty cheeky, since the broadcast/concert conglom is promoting his current tour.

Rather than the rote jukebox nostalgia of most veteran acts dutifully performing their hits, Young challenges his fans with the new material, lovingly rendered by longtime collaborators Crazy Horse (Frank Sampedro on organ, bassist Billy Talbot and drummer Ralph Molina). Several of them are up there with his all-time classics, including a typically haunting acoustic number (“Bandit”), one where he sits down at a pipe organ ("Grandpa's Interview"/“Bringin' Down Dinner”) and two certified Bic-flicking anthems in “Sun Green” and “Be the Rain.” The latter is worthy of Polyphonic Spree, with the full cast pumping fists and getting the rapt audience to its feet.

The six-song, double-encore mini-set, with Sampedro picking up the guitar and the band jamming like it was 1969, was almost anticlimactic, even with such old faves as “My My, Hey Hey,” “Sedan Delivery,“ “Powderfinger,” “F***ing Up,” “Cinnamon Girl” and the final “Rockin’ in the Free World.“ Once again, Young pushes the envelope.

By the time darkness had set in and most of the crowd had filtered to their seats, opener Lucinda Williams and her crack band worked up a pretty damn good vortex. It further solidified this quirky, restless femme rocker’s claim as the leading distaff heir to the personal songwriting legacy of Young and Dylan. Long may they run. Roy Trakin

John Mayer at Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre, Irvine:
The sound was impeccable, and the production was lean and gimmick-free, but the seats semi-sucked (OK, I’m spoiled), so all in all, last Friday’s shed show wasn't subjectively quite as much fun as the club sets I've seen Mayer play—but it was perhaps the most revealing performance yet, as a young artist of immense talent stretched his way into the second phase of his career before a sellout crowd that represented every part of his remarkably broad-based constituency.

Of the three songs Mayer played from the upcoming Heavier Things, the solo acoustic “Wheel” was nakedly powerful, and he nailed "Something's Missing," with its ingenious things-to-do-today checklist climax. In the third new number, the blues-based “Come Back to Bed,” Mayer turned introspection into interaction, as he and visiting Atlanta pal David Ryan Harris traded impromptu guitar/vocal licks—Mayer playing a line, Harris mimicking it with his voice, and vice versa, as they tossed his Strat back and forth between them, alternately ripping off molten riffs. In an apparent attempt to keep things as fresh as possible, Mayer turned the set list sequence practically upside down from his Staples show the night before. (Speaking of which, it was disappointing to see the independent-minded Richard Cromelin advance the Mayer-bashing party line in his review of the L.A. performance, following the lead of Bob Hilburn, who takes every opportunity to take shots at the guy—what’s clogging the ears of these L.A. Times dudes?)

What particularly intrigued me about the Irvine event was the generational spread of the O.C. crowd: A number of older couples were scattered among the cell-phone-carrying, midriff-baring packs of girlie girls, and it was surprising to discover that the old farts, too, knew all the words to the songs from Room for Squares—including the male half of the fiftysomething couple sitting next to me, who dutifully held up his Nokia during "No Such Thing." Not only that, but a member of the male posse behind me remarked to his buddies, “Mayer seems like a cool guy—I’d like to hang out with him.” As far as I’m concerned, those reactions provide further evidence that Room for Squares has connected across the parent/kid and male/female divides more deeply than any album released in this decade.

It’ll be fascinating to see how the fans react to the more visceral new LP, which comes out Sept. 9. I got a preview of the first single, the propulsive, hook-packed rocker “Bigger Than My Body,” earlier that day, and it blew me away on one listen, reminding me of the first time I heard the Police’s Reggata de Blanc. Better get used to this guy, cuz he’s not going anywhere for a good long time.
Bud Scoppa

I recently put down 500 clams—obscene, given the current state of my finances—on a shiny, adorable new 30-Gigabyte iPod. But my trusty old Nomad, with its jury-rigged 40-Gig drive, had at last given up the ghost; bereft, I decided to treat myself. As MP3 players go, the Nomad had a lot to recommend it, despite being roughly comparable in diameter to a soft-taco-sized tortilla. Most importantly, its capacious memory permitted me to go—oh, what’s the word—apeshit, loading songs all day and night. Obscure albums ripped from vinyl. Entire box sets. Collections, I kid you not, of birdcalls. Inevitably, though, I ended up listening to a few key playlists of songs I could bellow at the top of my lungs in the car.

One of the few artists whose songbooks works beautifully, top to bottom, as a playlist is Aimee Mann. Thursday night’s show at UCLA’s Royce Hall was, despite a few ragged edges, a reminder of Mann’s frightening consistency as a melodist; she’s been knocking out madly catchy, ruefully smart songs with nary a scrap of filler for over a decade. The Royce Hall perf included such gems as “Wise Up” and the Oscar-nominated “Save Me” from Magnolia, the effervescent “That’s Just What You Are,” the magisterial Jon Brion collaboration “Amateur,” the exquisite “You Could Make a Killing,” and too many more to enumerate. The faithful were rewarded with multiple encores, the very last of which was a lovely cover of Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” Backed by a typically expert band (guitarist Julian Coryell was on fire), Mann exuded charm galore even when struggling with a few low notes. Naturally, I fired up my complete Aimee playlist—on the “shuffle” setting, to add a little chance to my choice—as soon as I got home.

I wish it had been easier to listen to the new record by opening act Rufus Wainwright, which is shackled with copy-protection software that makes it impossible to (a) play it on a computer or (b) rip files into a portable, and frustratingly difficult to (c) play it on a non-component CD player. What result has this assiduous technology achieved? I’ve only listened to the CD once in three days. This weekend I’ll finally get a chance to make an analog burn of the disc so I can play it on the iPod. It’s time-consuming, but I owe it to myself. Wainwright’s new album, Want—his third for DreamWorks—fulfills much of the promise of his 1998 debut. Grandly ambitious, kaleidoscopic, informed by standards, opera and Wainwright’s ancestral pop leanings, it boasts a handful of stunning songs, many of them graced with heady orchestral arrangements. Standouts include the confrontational but rapturously beautiful “Dinner at Eight,” the hopeful “I Don’t Know What It Is,” and “14th Avenue.”

Until I can listen to all of those on my groovy little jukebox, of course, there’s always Steve Miller.
Simon Glickman

1. The Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Bravo):
How many men do you know who live like wild animals with electricity? Who never quite made it out of the frat house? Who are just too busy to even "think" about it? Giving a new meaning to the notion of "bi-," Bravo cowboys up with this little bit of culture-clash and interior-design ninja reality programming that appreciably impacts people's lives for the better with a wink and humor and straight-to-it. (Tuesdays at 10 ET/PT, repeated on NBC Thursdays at 9:30) —HG

2. Patrick Park, Loneliness Knows My Name (Hollywood): The Colorado-bred, L.A.-based Park comes off as a quintessential loner on his musically and lyrically detailed debut album, which offers a cast of world-weary characters scarred by life and victimized by love. Working with producer Dave Trumfio (My Morning Jacket, Wilco), Park frames his hardscrabble narratives in jewel-encrusted settings featuring violin, cello, reeds and harpsichord, along with his own precisely fingerpicked acoustic guitar and Dylanesque harmonica. Putting his weight behind his boyish tenor, Park appears to be willing himself to break through a membrane of reticence, which provides the album with its dramatic tension. Particularly noteworthy are “Desperation Eyes,” which contains Park’s most intense vocal performance, the metaphoric beauty “Silver Girl,” the thematically definitive “Something Pretty” and the raunchily genteel “Honest Skrew.” Park seems connected to something deep and ineffable, as if he were the offspring of Nick Drake on a Rocky Mountain high. —BS

3. Mainlines, Blood Feasts and Bad Taste: A Lester Bangs Reader (Anchor Books), edited by John Morthland; The Sound and the Fury: 40 Years of Classic Rock Journalism (Bloomsbury), edited by Barney Hoskyns; Nick Hornby, Songbook (Riverhead Books): Three lovingly produced tomes that restore some respect to the much-maligned genre of rock criticism, which exists today mostly as the filler between advertisements. Not that there isn’t any in-depth writing about pop music today, but at one time, it was a true calling, and there was a sense of destiny about it. It’s like what was being said could even affect the culture, with the artists themselves willingly submitting to the process. Morthland’s anthology of his late pal Bangs’ pieces features those not included in Greil Marcus’ seminal Psychotic Reactions and Carburetor Dung. And while it pays due tribute to the original rockcrit wild man, the overall feeling is sadness at how someone who railed against rock star excess submitted to a much-too-early demise because of a drug overdose even he would find inexcusable. UK scribe Hoskyns’ compilation of “classic rock journalism” is an outgrowth of his superb online archive, rocksbackpages.com, a must for any true connoisseur of the form. These reprints, from the likes of the N.Y. Post’s Al Aronowitz (on the Beatles’ arrival in America), Jon Savage, Lenny Kaye, Mary Harron, Mick Farren and John Mendelssohn, include forwards from the authors themselves setting the time and place. There’s also a story from U.K. novelist/critic Nick Hornby, second only to Cameron Crowe in his ability to transcend the genre, whose original limited edition of criticism, Songbook, has just been reissued as a paperback. Hornby is a true music lover who uncannily communicates the reasons for his passions as if one half of a Socratic dialogue, always the goal in truly effective pop criticism. Here, he tackles everything from Suicide’s “Frankie Teardrop” to Paul Westerberg, Nelly Furtado, Badly Drawn Boy, Royskopp and the Patti Smith Group with a down-to-earth clarity that comes from the keen sense of observation he showed in High Fidelity and About a Boy. —RT

4. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life: Chicks kick ass!" said the marketing phrase that set up the Dixie Chicks to rule the world And beyond Natalie Maines & Co., Angelina Jolie knows how to get it done. And in a world of "sisters doing it for themselves," Laura Croft is all about taking no prisoners, dropping the bad guys like flies and bringing home the ultimate reward. In the battle of good against evil, she refuses to shrink, sulk or shrug—and that strength is about as jaw-dropping as any verbal manifesto. Sure, it's the movies; but if Bronson and Eastwood and that ilk can do it, thank God for a robo-babe who takes names and gets it done! Count me in. Opens this weekend. —HG

5. The Casting Game—The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay: Michael Chabon, who wrote the intimately epic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about two Jewish cousins who become pop-art pioneers at the dawn of WWII, has signed on to write the screenplay as well—great news for those of us who were captivated by the book—while Stephen Daldry (The Hours) will direct. The characters are so vividly drawn that you can’t help but contemplate the actors best suited for the key roles while you read. I’ve got Adrien Brody as Joe Kavalier, Jennifer Connolly as Rosa Saks, Ben Stiller as Sam Clay and Brendan Frazier as Tracy Bacon. My well-read cohort Simon Glickman likes Owen Wilson for the Bacon role. What are your picks? You do read books…don’t you? —BS

6. Rap & Roll Confidential, July: The second-to-last-page skewer of the impact on radio consolidation alone is worth the lifetime subscription price. Not only does it report that the big corporations are now stepping away from the "national footprint" notion—in the wake of some serious backlash—it illuminates real-life reaction to what is the eventual erosion of free speech. Plus, Lee Ballinger's take on Metallica's St. Anger embraces the band’s limitations as strengths, recognizes the place they maintain at the table and finds the return on the music that makes them one of the great HEAVY bands of our time. —HG

7. Preview—Clark Family at L.A. House of Blues, July 25: While they don't quite know what to call themselves (they’re alternately billed as Clark Family Experience and plain ol’ Clark), they know how to play those instruments—acoustic grounded, electric-based, ready to rock without losing its organic orientation. Six brothers, each more beautiful than the next, who look like Russian dolls, and if they weren't SUCH good musicians, they'd be a marketing coup for a head trauma case. But they are, and that's what makes them so potentially lethal. Still the thrill of the 20-somethings from Virginia (OK, baby Austin, the Hendrix of the dobro, IS only 19) is the way they tear down everything about white-hot church and bluegrass, run it through what makes songwriter stuff great and then apply a filter of the music of right now. For these boys Godsmack and Avril Lavigne and Coldplay and the Wallflowers are every bit as interesting as the traditional stuff, and music is music is music to be mixed and matched and elevated into something new and even more. —HG

8. Cooler Kids, “All Around the World (Punk Debutante)” (DreamWorks): This dance-floor smash, along with Fannypack’s “Cameltoe,” perfectly captures the swelling essence of old-school disco, with a post-modern sparkle that recalls the hip-pop of Deee-Lite and Technotronic at their most winsome. Co-produced by ex-Luscious Jackson frontwoman Jill Cunniff and the Pop Rox maestros, it distills the essence of the greatest technopop, sparkling like the silvery moon and spoon that used to hang over the writhing masses at Studio 54. Here’s hoping they will survive. —RT

9. Royal Palm Trees: Reaching straight for the sky. So singular in purpose, so regal in bearing. Royal palms line the most major streets of our upper-crust world—Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Palm Beach—but they're a harbinger of dignity against the elements. No matter what nature hurls at them, they bend and give and only occasionally, only under gale-force conditions, break in two. Mostly, though, they weather the storm, reach for the clouds, soak up the sun and never lose the erect carriage that is pride in one's fibre, which never needs to be expressed or even understood, it just is. An apt signifier, perhaps, for the way we should all walk through this world. —HG

10. Ben Curtis Wins the British Open: The majestic rolling hills of St Andrews [Ed. note: Actually, this year’s open was held in Sandwich, England, where the hills aren’t quite as rolling or majestic.] return one's thoughts to the mother church of the game. But more inspiring than the undulations and tall grass of the roughs is the notion that not only a non-winner, but a non-winning nobody can turn in four great rounds and take one of the most celebrated titles in golf. It gives one hope that a moment can descend for mere mortals who do things for the right reasons, who aren't afraid to dream and reach and stay with it, to just keep marching—and (and this would be my father's BIG one) stay within themselves instead of pushing beyond sanity and reason. Ben Curtis is the best us we can be—thank heavens! —HG

"I told my mom I had to say the F-word a couple of times, and she said, 'I don't think you should do it, then,'" Seann William Scott, who stars in American Wedding, due Aug. 1, told Teen People. "I didn't tell her about the semen-drinking until a week before the movie came out." —Valerie Nome

Dio, Evil or Divine
(DVD): “Dio has rocked for a long, long time”—and now, at last, all the head-banging bombast of metal’s dragon-slaying warrior has been captured for viewing in the safety of your home. The DVD release of Evil or Divine (EagleVision) offers a stunning career-retrospective live set from Ronnie James Dio, the inventor of the metal-horns hand gesture. The elder statesman of theatrical metal, Dio is credited with bringing some of the most epic productions ever conceived to concert stages (who can forget the 50 foot fire-breathing beast from his mid-’80s tours), and despite the absence of dragons or Stonehenge monuments, Evil or Divine is a feast of heavy-metal quintessence.

With a resume that reads like the Magna Carta of metal, Dio unearths explosive live versions of his Rainbow signature tunes, “Man on the Silver Mountain” and “Long Live Rock & Roll,” as well as classics from his Black Sabbath tenure, “Children of the Sea’ and “Heaven and Hell.” RJD’s ’80s reign is represented, in all its Dolby 5.1 glory, with fist-pounding performances of “Holy Diver,” “Rainbow in the Dark” and “The Last in Line,” as well as hard-rocking neo-Dio from the recent Magica and Killing The Dragon releases.

Backed by a veteran cast of metal luminaries (Jimmy Bain, Doug Aldrich, and Simon Wright), Dio wields his arsenal of classics in this high-octane performance, filmed at Chicago’s Roseland Ballroom on Friday the 13th. Ooh! Bonus features on the DVD are plentiful, and big fun for devotees and the curious uninitiated alike. Backstage footage, photo galleries and insightful interviews bring mere mortals one step closer to the inner workings of the Dio machine and offer Ronnie’s thoughts on the state of music, religion and even (gulp) black magic. Finally, the rarely seen promo video for Dio’s 2002 single “Push” is worth the price of admission alone, featuring a diabolical, acoustic tribute medley of Dio’s rockin’ oldies from Jack Black and Kyle Gass of Tenacious D.

Ronnie James Dio has forged the rock trail for over three decades; he’s a legend in the heavy metal pantheon, and now the spectacle and breathtaking pageantry of his epic live show is captured for all to behold. “Look out!!”
—Joe Carona

Party people in the house. You, our loyal Weakend Planner reader, are cordially invited to the “Won’t Hesitate to Celebrate” party at the Coral Room (512 W. 29th St.) on Tuesday, July 29, from 7-10 pm. The Sam Adams will be flowing free all night long, and DJs will be helping you manifest your groove thing. Come one, come all but RSVP to [email protected] ASAP. This big bash is brought to you by the upcoming skater flick Stoked: The Rise and Fall of Gator… For those looking to get in the action this weekend, might we suggest Nelly, who brings his rap game to Radio City Music Hall (1260 Ave. of the Americas) Friday. That same evening, Bow Wow jumps around at Symphony Hall (1020 Broad St.) in Newark. Saturday will be the biggest night, however, when the Boss comes home. That’s right, Bruce Springsteen takes the stage at Giants Stadium (Meadowlands Sports Complex, 50 Route 120, East Rutherford, N.J.)… On Sunday, trendsetters and all their friends will surely be checking out the MTV2 You Hear It First event featuring Bubba Sparxxx, Common and Jin at B.B. King’s Blues Club (243 W. 42nd St.).

Jane’s Addiction, Strays (Capitol):
On their first studio album in 13 years, original members Perry Farrell, Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins (along with newcomer bassist Chris Chaney) lay claim to the title of America’s Led Zeppelin, as they duel live for the honor with Audioslave on this summer’s Lollapalooza. Old (and new) Jane’s fans won’t be disappointed by this Bob Ezrin-produced effort, which has all the tribal jet propulsion of “Pigs in Zen” and “Ocean Size” on the first single, “Just Because,” and “True Nature” (with its anti-Bush polemic, “We’ll go to war for you backward heroes”). Apocalyptic then, seemingly prescient now, Jane’s explores its own mortality (and survival) in “Price I Pay” and the title track (“The road it’s getting thinner”), while the circumspection of “Jane Says” is echoed in the rueful, bittersweet “Everybody’s Friend.” Worth the wait. —RT

Dan Baird, Out of Mothballs (Jerkin' Crocus): Tigger in a biker jacket. A complex fraction of what happens if you crossed the Ramones with Deliverance over a factor of the Replacements. Seriously. Dan Baird, gap toothed/Jack Purcell-sporting/barely filling out his jeans/shock of hair in his face, is the freewheeling face of Saturday night: a cockeyed grin that is nothing but trouble and the kind of wink that lets you know he won't let anything bad happen. With a Telecaster slung below the belt buckle, he gives us is the bucking bottom line of three chords and a cloud of dust. You hit it hard. You find the hook. You throw it with all you've got—and you chase the night till you've strangled ever last bit of sweat, laughs and reverb out of it. And it's all here in this 11-cut package of "the ones that got away": echoes of John Fogerty, the Stones, Free, Faces and Bad Company, plus a Willie Dixon cover and enough snaking grooves to put the iciest girl back on her heels and the most timid boy full-tilt in pursuit of the things he doesn't understand. Holly Gleason

Thrice, The Artist in the Ambulance (Sub City/Island/IDJ): This Orange County foursome’s songs are packed with raw emotion, but the term “emo” hardly does justice to the reach of their major-label debut. Dustin Kensrue’s supple pipes, Teppei Teranishi’s versatile hard-rock guitars and the breakneck tempos of fraternal rhythm section Eddie and Riley Breckenridge field metal dissonance and melodic beauty with equal aplomb. Best of all, the band grounds its varying impulses in sturdy songcraft. The creamy three-part harmonies at the center of the crunchy “All That’s Left” melt in your ear, and the worried, skittering verse in “Stare at the Sun” gives way to a huge, yearning refrain. Other highlights: the galloping “Under a Killing Moon,” the huge and gorgeous “The Melting Point of Wax” and the breathless title track. Simon Glickman

Three Days Grace, Three Days Grace (Jive): Having made it out of small-town Ontario to their new home in Toronto, this Canadian power trio mixes big-city hooks with one-horse angst to produce a debut of unsettling sonic and lyrical clarity. Opener “Burn” comes on with a hyper-kinetic Badmotorfinger-like riff, morphing into a huge chorus, while the following “Just Like You” brings another massively grinding motif worthy of vintage Ritchie Blackmore. Single “I Hate Everything About You” brings it all home with its soaring, searing complaint (“Why do I love you?). Other highlights include the singed 6/8 bitterness of “Let You Down” and latent melodic smash “Take Me Under.” When you say Grace, be sure to wear earplugs. Jon O’Hara

There’s no way you scrolled down this far. If you’re stuck in Los Angeles this weekend, perhaps you should stay inside, where the air isn’t quite visible. “Just a little haze,” the natives will tell you. “It will burn off.” Sure, just like the upper layers of your epidermis. Temps will be in the mid-80s to upper 90s in the Valley (not that you go to the Valley), and only down to the upper 60s at night. But when the sun goes down, you can’t see the smog. Over in New York City, it’s gonna be hot. Low-90s hot. Oh, and sticky with humidity. Nighttime temps in the low-70s hot. The good news is that it might rain on Sunday. So instead of complaining about the heat, you can complain about the rain. Or you can just stay inside and wish you lived in L.A. Why did I agree to come back again?
—David Simutis

Seabiscuit (Universal)
First Oscar contender of the summer, based on the best-selling book by Laura Hillebrand about the Depression-era horse and his broken-down jockey that captured the imagination of the world with their improbable, rags-to-riches ride to glory.
Stars: Tobey Maguire, Jeff Bridges, Chris Cooper, Elizabeth Banks, William H. Macy, Ed Lauter, Chris McCarron, real-life jockey Gary Stevens
Director: Gary Ross
returns for his first film after his much-underrated debut, Pleasantville. He also penned the screenplays for Big and Dave.
Thumbs Up:
Rocky at the track, Chariots of Fire with horses, the first surefire Academy Award contender of the year.
Thumbs Down: Initial reviews are mixed, citing Ross’ direction as a little too studied and obvious, with complaints that the title nag doesn’t show up until an hour into the movie.
Soundtrack: Decca soundtrack includes original Randy Newman score as part of an enhanced CD with audio and multimedia computer files.
Website: www.seabiscuitmovie.com is state-of-the-art, allowing you to see the story through the eyes of the four principals, with film info, photo gallery, trailer and clips, downloads and related links.

Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life (Paramount Pictures)
Sequel in which the archaeologist/explorer journeys to a sunken temple, where she discovers the mythical Pandora’s Box, which is promptly stolen from her by the leader of a Chinese crime syndicate in league with a bad guy who wants to use the artifact as a doomsday weapon.
Stars: Angelina Jolie, Chris Barrie, Gerard Butler, Noah Taylor
Director: Jan de Bont
(Twister, Speed, The Haunting) looks to reclaim his place as an action auteur.
Thumbs Up: Angelina Jolie would be watchable reading the phone book, or avoiding Billy Bob Thornton’s tabloid entreaties to get back together…
Thumbs Down: It might be more interesting to see her get that Billy Bob tattoo removed.
Soundtrack: Hollywood Records album includes Alexandra Slate, The Crystal Method, Lunatic Calm, The Dandy Warhols, Filter, P.O.D., Saliva, Filter, Moby, David Stewart, 3rd Strike, Sloth and Alan Silvestri score. Strangely, the Korn single, “Did My Time,” is not on the album.
Website: www.Tombraidermovie.com lets you view the trailer, access an online store, play a game, get downloads, enter Lara’s World and download screenshots.

Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (Dimension Films)
Third installment of adventures of spy siblings Juni and Carmen Cortez, who is kidnapped into a virtual reality game run by an evil genius known as the Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone).
Stars: Daryl Sabara, Alexa Vega, Stallone, Antonio Banderas, Steve Buscemi, George Clooney, Alan Cumming, Salma Hayek, Mike Judge, Ricardo Montalban, Matthew O’Leary, Emily Osment, Bill Paxton, Holland Taylor, Danny Trejo
Director: Robert Rodriguez
has the third part of his El Mariachi trilogy, Once Upon a Time In Mexico , also coming out later this year.
Thumbs Up: Breezy, techno action movie with a homemade feel could be yet another sleeper hit.
Thumbs Down: Is there anything new to add to what we’ve already seen?
Soundtrack: Milan Records soundtrack features original score by director Robert Rodriguez, with tracks by Bobby Edner/Alexa Vega and Carmen Cortez.
Website: www.spykids.com allows you to become an agent and collect cool stuff.

Masked and Anonymous (Sony Pictures Classics)
Based on an unpublished Spanish short story, it’s about a wandering troubadour (played by Bob Dylan) busted out of prison in a fictional country besieged by civil war so he can perform one last concert, both to rekindle his career and help bring a divided country back together.
Stars: Dylan, Jeff Bridges, Penelope Cruz, John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Luke Wilson, Angela Bassett, Steven Bauer, Bruce Dern, Ed Harris, Val Kilmer, Cheech Marin, Chris Penn, Giovanni Ribisi, Mickey Rourke, Richard Sarafian, Christian Slater, Tony Garnier, Charlie Sexton.
Director: Larry Charles of Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fame in his feature debut
Thumbs Up: Forty minutes of Dylan music, with existing songs and originals written for the film, and admit it, you liked Renaldo & Clara.
Thumbs Down: Advance word from Sundance is that this is a disaster of epic proportions.
Soundtrack: Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax album includes new versions of “Down in the Flood” and “Cold Irons Bound” by Dylan, along with two other tracks and music by Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia, Sophie Zelmani, Francesco de Gregori, Los Lobos, Shirley Caesar and Dixie Hummingbirds.
Website: www.maskedandanonymous-themovie.com offers information about the movie, cast and crew, soundtrack, trailer, photo gallery and where it’s playing.

Buffalo Soldiers (Miramax)
Originally acquired the day before Sept. 11, and its release postponed from last July, this black comedy details the criminal drug culture in Berlin among U.S. Army soldiers. Phoenix plays a fly-by-the-seat-of-his-pants, high-stakes arms dealer and con manwho runs the Army like his own private fiefdom, a la Catch 22’s Milo Minderbinder and Sergeant Bilko.
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Anna Paquin, Scott Glenn, Ed Harris, Elizabeth McGovern, Dean Stockwell, Leon Robinson
Director: Gregor Jordan
Thumbs Up:
May be just wacky enough to be worth a look, especially with Phoenix, always interesting, and the anti-Americanist is refreshing amidst all the post-9/11 sanctimony.
Thumbs Down:
Never mind politics, if they hold a movie for a year, it can’t be too good.
Soundtrack: None.
Website: http://www.miramax.com/buffalo_soldiers/ has a trailer, movie showtimes and a plot synopsis.

Camp (IFC Films)
Musical set at a summer camp for young talent, as a burnt-out Broadway songwriter rediscovers success by recruiting his charges to.. yes, put on a show. Dirty Dancing meets Flashdance meets Fame meets Meatballs.
Nobody you ever heard of, but some stars-to-be like Alana Allen, Sasha Allen, Joanna Chilcoat, Steven Cutts
Former screenwriter/actor, first-time director Todd Graff
Thumbs Up: The feel-good sleeper Full Monty/My Big Fat Greek Wedding of the summer.
Thumbs Down: Backstage cliches in sexual and ethnic diversity clothing.
Soundtrack: Decca album is an enhanced CD, which includes original score by Stephen Trask (Hedwig and the Angry Inch), the Replacements’ “Skyway” (?!), the Wonder Stuff, Snow Patrol, The Voices of East Harlem, Oasis, original songs by Fame’s Michael Gore and several Stephen Sondheim songs performed by the young cast.
Website: www.campthemovie.com lets you watch a trailer, enter to win a camp survival kit, download wallpaper, hear soundtrack selections, talk about the movie, learn how to audition for roles, take a Camp quiz and choose a Buddy icon.

I survived my first week of cyber-dating—barely. I had three semi-blind dates and didn’t feel even the slightest hint of attraction for any of them. I was overly anxious to meet up with the first guy, jumping right in before testing the waters. He looked cute and scruffy in his pictures and also had a big dog (bonus points). After meeting him, I realized there was a reason why he didn’t have any full-length pictures on his profile. I’m not shallow, but I’m in great shape and expect the same. To make it worse, 20 minutes after meeting him he asked to kiss me—eww! The second guy was really sweet and wants me to write for his website—for free, of course. He wasn’t my type but is definitely potential-friend material, plus my inner matchmaker has been pondering which of my single gal friends I could hook him up with. The third date was, by far, the most disastrous of all. He didn’t look anything like his pictures and must’ve been nervous, because he managed to tell me everything a guy should not tell a gal he’s hoping to date—his dental problems, dysfunctional-family baggage, owning a crappy car, etc. Finally, after enduring a half-hour tutorial on the evolution of marching band over the last 15 years, I pulled the “Wow, I’m really tired” move and went home with the full intention of logging onto my computer and taking my profile off Match.com. Unfortunately, my computer wouldn’t connect to the Internet, leaving my profile intact and me questioning whether I should count my losses or stick it out. Is dating a numbers game—the more guys you meet, the more chance you have of finding love? Or, was my inner hopeless romantic right all along, believing you can’t find love but that it must find you? My cocktail of the week is dedicated to anyone who has ever endured a blind or semi-blind date.

Mystery Date
2 oz. Bombay Sapphire gin
Splash of sweet vermouth and grenadine
Shake with ice and strain into a martini glass

Nerves and hormones overcome a lot of guys, so I’m coming to the rescue by listing five things not to do while on a date.

Top Five Things Never To Do On A Date:
5. Don’t ask for a kiss:
Some people feel like it’s polite, but I see it as unromantic and a possible deal breaker. You’ll know if it’s right. If you’re unsure, go for an innocent kiss on the cheek and see how she reacts. A lot rides on the first kiss, and if it’s done wrong, you might kill your chances for a second date.
4. Think before you speak: A first date is like a job interview. Your goal should be to leave them wanting more, not wanting to run the other way and block your number from their phone. You would never go into a job interview and lay all your emotional baggage on the table, so don’t do it on a date. Be especially careful if alcohol’s involved. Sometimes you go into a date extremely nervous, and after a couple of drinks, you start to feel comfortable. Don’t let this fool you into thinking you can let all of your skeletons fall out of the closet.
3. Stop talking when their eyes gloss over: Don’t monopolize the conversation. Just because you loved band camp, and it was the best experience of your life, doesn’t mean your date wants to hear every single detail, including the trumpet solo you did on the last day. The purpose of a first date is to get to know each other better, so allow your conversation to be interactive.
2. Don’t show up drunk: It’s all right if the two of you decide to throw back a few too many shots of tequila together—just make sure you call a taxi. But under no circumstances should you show up for a date already three sheets to the wind. It’s happened to me before, and I was livid. If you find yourself a little tipsier than you should be prior to your date, then have enough respect to call and cancel, instead of making her deal with your drunken stupor.
1. Never show up unannounced: Never, ever show up at a girl’s home, unless you’ve been invited. If you do, she and her friends will always refer to you as the very creepy stalker guy. This happened to me and it totally freaked me out. A guy I’d just met came to a party I had, and when he was leaving to take his friend home, he asked if he should come back. I told him no because I was going to bed, only to find him knocking at my door when I got out of the shower. Needless to say, I never answered any of his calls after that.

De’s L.A. bar pick of the week: You’ve logged on, matched up and set a day for the first semi-blind date, so where do you meet? I would suggest a late-Saturday-afternoon date with an awesome view. The Standard Downtown Lounge on Flower St. is located on the roof of the hotel and is open 24 hours. The crowd is hip and the décor is funky. Have a seat in one of the vibrating waterbed cabanas and enjoy a cocktail—but beware, because they’re not cheap. Go before 7 p.m. to avoid the long line and hefty cover charge. Don’t even attempt to go after 11 p.m.—you’ll never get in.

I hope all of you are enjoying the summer and your summer flings. Keep reading, and I’ll keep you updated on my cyber-dating saga—lets see if I can make it through another week. Until next week—hugs and kisses. Denise Bayles

Contributors: Denise Bayles, Joe Carona, Darran Cava, Holly Gleason, Simon Glickman, Valerie Nomes, Jon O’Hara, Roy Trakin and the returning David Simutis

Edited by Bud Scoppa