HITS Daily Double
Whether he’s studying to be a rabbi while trying to pick up the way-cute Hebrew school administrator or reeling off a dozen euphemisms for masturbation while explaining it to his nephew, Kirk is a study in calculated cool, with just the right hint of anarchy.


At Last, It’s Here! Labor Day Weekend Is Finally Upon Us, Kiddies, and With It, the Return of First-Class Fun After a Long, Hot Summer
The college football season gets underway this weekend, with lots of questions still to be answered and no clear-cut favorite for #1, although Ohio State tops the preseason polls. Will USC, after losing Bush, Leinart and White, among numerous teammates now in the NFL, still be one of the top teams and compete for a national championship? Can second-year coach Charlie Weis lead the #2 ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish through a brutal September to an undefeated season? And after losing superstar QB Vince Young to the pros, do the Texas Longhorns have a shot at repeating? We can’t wait to watch it all unfold, starting this Saturday.

1. Pete Yorn, Nightcrawler (Red Ink/Columbia), live at Roxy, L.A.:
There was a time when Yorn was battling fellow Columbia artist John Mayer for the title of next big shaggy-haired pop-rock heartthrob. These days, he’s competing with yet another labelmate, Teddy Geiger, as he looks in the mirror and sees a version 15 years younger than him. Taking the indie route for the final third of his “morning-day-night” trilogy, the still-shaggy-haired singer/songwriter continues to mine the ’80-derived melodic links between the R.E.M. minor chord micro meets U2 arena-rock macro of “For Us” and the Psychedelic Furs sturm und drone of “Undercover,” while at the same time nodding toward the current emo pop of Death Cab for Cutie in the delicate acoustic strum of “Bandstand in the Sky.” But it’s songs like the country-flavored “The Man,” featuring his Dixie Chicks collaborators Natalie Maines providing harmonies and Martie McGuire on fiddle and his Tom Petty-ish take on Warren Zevon’s “Splendid Isolation” that point Yorn’s next career path toward Nashville, where he can be the more tuneful version of shaggy-haired alt-country heartthrob Ryan Adams. Performing at a packed Roxy, in the second of three L.A. shows pegged to the release of the new album, as Yorn leans into classics from his debut, like “Life on a Chain,” “Strange Condition,” “Just Another” and “For Nancy (‘Cos It Already Is),” the crowd erupts, shouting the words back at him. Admitting he used to want to be Morrissey, he introduces a stirring version of the Smiths’ “There is a Light That Never Goes Out,” then underlines his connection to ’60s SoCal pop with a letter-perfect cover of those heartrending harmonies in the Association’s “Never My Love.” While some of the midtempo songs begin to sound the same after a while, and he’s never been the most incisive lyricist, by the time Pete gets to the set-closing take on Elvis’ “Suspicious Minds,” he has both the inordinate number of beautiful females and their equally enthusiastic boyfriends in the palm of his hand. At the end, we are left to ponder if Yorn, who has spread out his 24-hour cycle over five years, can make it to the new morning after intact. —Roy Trakin

2. Quinceanera: Reminiscent of Alison Anders’ films or HBO’s Real Women Have Curves, this charming indie film is the second effort from directors Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, whose previous movie was The Fluffer, about the world of adult films. Apparently, neither of them is Latino, so it’s pretty remarkable that they manage to capture the nuances of a rapidly changing, multilingual Hispanic-American middle-class community in and around Echo Park by delving into a variety of issues from assimilation, changing social mores and gentrification to the true nature of Christian morality. The fetching Emily Rios is Magdalena, a girl on the cusp of womanhood, about to celebrate her 15th birthday, which is the occasion of the titular ceremony, a kind of Sweet 16 and bat mitzvah rolled into one. Thrown out of her house by her stern preacher father for getting pregnant—insisting she never had intercourse in an obvious allusion to the Virgin Mary—Magdalena is forced to move in with her beatific, forgiving great-granduncle (the marvelously expressive Chalo Gonzalez), who has also taken in the family’s other black sheep, Carlos, a tough street punk who’s actually a sensitive gay, in an amazing performance by Jesse Garcia. The movie earns its final tears, as Carlos gives a moving eulogy to his saint-like Uncle Tomas, who loses his zest for living after being forced out of his hillside home by gay yuppie landlords. The film takes on a lot of hot-button topics, but never fails to lose the common humanity at its core, which makes its themes of family, love and redemption universal. —RT

3. The Illusionist: Not a bad movie amidst the deitrus of a mindless blockbuster summer, but like its magic-rooted plot, based on a short story by Pulitzer Prize winner Steven Millhauser, it’s all about indirection and sleight-of-hand. The strengths of writer/director Neil Burgess’ film (his only previous effort was the 2002 mock documentary Interview With the Assassin, about the man who allegedly killed JFK) are its sepia-toned photography, turn-of-the-century Europe art direction, pulsating Philip Glass score and measured performances by Edward Norton as the mysterious title character Eisenheim and Paul Giamatti the fellow social-climbing police inspector who doggedly tries to figure out “how he does it.” The story, which unfolds like a fairy tale, centers around a doomed childhood romance between the lower-class (and obviously Jewish) Norton and the privileged Duchess Jessica Biel in fin de siecle Vienna (though shot in Prague), which pits the magician against her soon-to-be husband, the evil Prince Leopold, played with vein-popping, over-the-top villainy by Rufus Sewell. It’s all about class distinctions as played out through power and magic, reality and illusion, reason and faith… How what you see is often not what you get. And while the narrative machinations had me glazed over as it played out, the Usual Suspects payoff is a welcome finishing jolt, one that will have to be studied when the DVD is released to fully connect the dots. —RT

4. Hollywoodland: Every period-piece film noir must be compared to Roman Polanski’s Chinatown, as does this handsomely mounted effort by director Allen Coulter, a veteran who has helmed episodes of HBO’s Rome, The Sopranos, Six Feet Under and Sex and the City. The subject is the mysterious death of George Reeves, TV’s original Superman, who allegedly committed suicide by shooting himself in the head with a Luger. The much-maligned Ben Affleck does yeoman work as the troubled pretty boy, especially in the re-creations of the classic ’50s show, with Adrien Brody playing his typically masochistic sufferer, this time as a down-on-his-luck private investigator who doesn’t solve the puzzle, but does find his inner soul. The supporting performances, by Diane Lane as Affleck’s older mistress and benefactor, Bob Hoskins as the cuckolded and malignant studio chief, Robin Tunney as a scheming, gold-digging starlet, Joe Spano as a conniving publicist and Jeffrey DeMunn as Reeves’ obsequious agent, are all spot-on, as is the ’50s production design, art direction, nifty locations, period score and sunlit cinematography. Unfortunately, the narrative loses steam about halfway through, leaving the whodunit for a more existential pursuit, which lacks the emotional/intellectual punch of its still-unsurpassed predecessor’s “Forget it Jake, it’s Chinatown” climax. —RT

5. www.burningangel.com: Call it J-Date for pervs, Suicide Girls for Hebes. Run by 25-year-old Rutgers grad and Brooklyn homegirl Joanna Angel, the site is the premiere location for Jewish punk alt-porn, all tattoos, body piercings and interviews with hip bands like TV on the Radio, Bloc Party, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Elefant and Marilyn Manson. The project has spawned a thriving DVD company and now a record label, helmed by former Elektra and Vivid publicist Brian Gross. Angel, an ambitious but hamishe gal who, even five years ago, would probably have become a public defender, a publicist or a journalist, blogs about L.A. bagels, her favorite masturbation materials and her SAT scores with equal aplomb. Of course, punk isn’t nearly as sexy as hip-hop, porn’s other musical partner, which makes this accessible only to those with a certain fetish. But if this is the mainstreaming of porn and female empowerment, I’m all for it. By the way, did you hear the one about the observant Jewish adult film star? She doesn’t swallow on Yom Kippur. Can I get a rim shot? On a drum, I mean. —RT

6. The Tyde, Three’s Co. (Rough Trade): One of L.A.’s local natural resources, this neo-psychedelic surf band, fronted by singer/songwriter Darren Rademaker, wife Ann Do’ and brother Brett, an ex-Beachwood Spark, would be right at home on the late Greg Shaw’s Bomp label, but have instead landed on U.K.’s famed Rough Trade. The British always did have a special spot in their hearts for this Nuggets-style pop, equal parts Beach Boys and Jan & Dean, along with lesser-known Top 40 golden oldies like the Grass Roots, San Diego’s Union Gap and N.Y.’s Every Mother’s Son. It’s all sunny and sandy, with songs like “Do It Again Again” and “Brock Landers” evoking the surf aesthetic in all its garage-band glory. While the sound is about as far away from today’s CHR as possible, it’s still enough to bring a smile to your face and a yearning for more simple times, when it was all about a bonfire on the beach and catching the perfect wave. —RT

7. Justin Kirk: As Andy Botwin, the stoned-out brother-in-law of Weeds’ main character played by Mary Louise-Parker, Kirk added some much-needed comic muscle to the show with his appearance late last year, but he’s really come into his own during the current season. Whether he’s studying to be a rabbi while trying to pick up the way-cute Hebrew school administrator or reeling off a dozen euphemisms for masturbation while explaining it to his nephew, the actor is a study in calculated cool, with just the right hint of anarchy. Kirk effortlessly embodies the show’s mix of druggy humor, pointed satire and surreal-life believability with unerring comic timing. —RT

8. Everclear, “Hater” video: Dedicated to Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson and “all others who hate in the name of Jesus,” and inspired by a recent break-up with his wife, the video for the title track from Art Alexakis’ upcoming album Welcome to the Drama Club depicts a Christ-like figure snorting nitrous, gambling, guzzling booze while driving, participating in an orgy and shaking down the homeless. The virally distributed clip has already become an Internet sensation and has predictably inspired legions of right-wingers to protest, leading to the obligatory Alexakis debate with a finger-wagging, morally outraged Bill O’Reilly. Listening to the song, with its chorus, “I don’t want to be with a hater like you,” you realize it isn’t about Christianity at all, but instead savages hypocrisy and (wo) man’s inhumanity to man. The low-budget vid, shot in the streets of Alexakis’ native Portland, accomplishes what it set out to do—bringing media attention to his band for the first time in years. See the explicit version on ifilm.com here. —RT

9. Blender magazine: A curious amalgam of laddie mag (its parent company also publishes Maxim) and Creem in its glory day, with a nod toward the meta-text and short attention span of the Internet (lots of lists), this is the hottest music publication of the moment, with competitors like Spin desperately trying to copy its formula for success. Every time I try to get through an issue, though, the sizzle outweighs the steak, but I do like the way every corner is crammed with information, like Mad magazine’s old way of filling even the margins with, well, marginalia. Still, the pandering element is almost too much to bear, with covers of Paris Hilton, Shakira and Jessica Simpson clearly undermining any musical credibility it might have…which means, of course, next to nothing these days. Let’s face it—sex sells, music doesn’t…at least not magazines. —RT

10. Gripe of the Week: In this age of 17-screen multiplexes, can someone tell me why, on weekends, virtually every movie starts at the same time, 8 p.m.? Recently, after getting turned away from a 7:30 p.m. sold-out showing of CassavetesFaces at UCLA, we headed for Westwood, missing most of the 8 p.m. screenings there, then headed over the 405 to Sherman Oaks Galleria, where not one of the more than dozen films playing there was starting before 10 p.m. Ya think they could stagger the showings? Wouldn’t that allow for more customers who don’t arrive in time? There must be some rationale behind their scheduling, but darn if I can figger it out. Guess that’s why God made VOD. —RT

Friday, September 1st
Jessica Simpson: Toyota Concert Series on Today @ Rockerfeller Center (NBC)

The Red Hot Chili Peppers @ The Forum in Inglewood

Rockies vs. Dodgers (7:30, Prime Ticket):
The Dodgers, coming off their best month in franchise history with 21 wins, now turn there attention to visiting Colorado. Although the Rockies have drifted out of contention, they are always dangerous. We’re now in the home stretch, and the Dodgers are a month away from winning the division. Derek Lowe will take the mound after pitching three innings of relief in the Dodgers’ 16-inning victory against the Reds.

Saturday, September 2nd
Long Beach Blues Festival @ CSULB Athletic Field: Mega-legends Joe Cocker and Rickie Lee Jones join heavies like War, Luther Johnson and Jerry Butler. Guess Long Beach isn’t all about gangsta rap and ska.

Notre Dame @ Georgia Tech (ABC HD)

USC @ Arkansas (ESPN HD): The debut of QB John David Booty and the new-look Trojans.

Sheryl Crow w/John Mayer @ Tweeter Center at the Waterfront, Camden, NJ

Utah @ UCLA (FSN):
Although UCLA did lose a bunch of key seniors, Ben Olson will be making his highly anticipated season debut; can he make the Bruins a contender for the Pac 10 title?

Sunday, September 3rd
Cheap Trick @ Ravinia in Chicago.

Dixie Chick @ Glendale Arena

Rob Zombie and Godsmack @ Tweeter Center at the Waterfront,
Camden, NJ

JD & the Straight Shot w/The James Gang @ House of Blues Las Vegas

Monday, September 4th—Labor Day

Florida State @ Miami (ESPN HD): Later this week, the NFL season kicks off, and Monday Night Football takes over, as the franchise shifts from ABC to cable. But tonight, two highly ranked college rivals (both of which have been accused of running covert professional programs) get the chance to showcase themselves in the NFL’s most popular time slot.

Lost Prophets @ Marquee Theatre, Phoenix.

This is usually my favorite section of the Planner each week, but unfortunately there is nothing good coming out. I do recommend, however, that if you haven’t seen The Illusionist yet, that you check it out; it’s now open nationwide. Giamatti and Norton are amazing; Rufus Sewell is also brilliant.

Opening This Weekend:
The Wicker Man
, starring Nicholas Cage
Crossover, starring Anthony Mackie
Crank, starring Jason Statham

V for Vendetta:
This is my favorite movie of the year so far, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.
World Trade Center: Another important movie that I urge people to see. I was in tears, and although a lot of it is hard to watch, it’s quite an astonishing story.
The Illusionist: Giamatti and Norton are truly awesome.
X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.
Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply awesome!!! Johnny Depp is brilliant, Bill Nighy is creepy, Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and nonstop action.
Mission Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.
An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year…A MUST-SEE!!!
Nacho Libre: The funniest movie of the year. Jack Black rocks.
The Devil Wears Prada: This movie is making my list because Meryl Streep was truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if nothing else.