HITS Daily Double
Brothers of the Head is one of the best rock films of all time, from a pair of guys who not only get the backdrop but know what to do with it. —Roy Trakin
Brothers of the Head is so far from Spinal Tap and yet so deliriously accurate that it instantly found its way onto my list of Best Rock Movies of All Time.
—Jay Frank


First It’s Brutally Hot, Then It’s Eerily Gloomy. Is It Global Warming? The End of the World? No Matter—Football Season’s Just a Month Away!

1. The French Laundry, Yountville, CA:
Located on a nondescript dirt road off the 29 between Napa and Calistoga, CA, in the heart of wine country and named after the cleaners that were in the two-story house before, Thomas Keller’s world-renowned restaurant is a haven for foodies, with whole websites devoted to how to get a coveted reservation exactly two months in advance. Once you decide to take the plunge at a price fixe of $210 apiece for the nine-plus course meal, you enter the realm of dining as performance art. Taking our chairs for the 11 a.m. seating at one of the 16 tables (one of three that start at 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.), we are offered a choice of two “Chef’s Tasting Menus,” one of which is vegetarian. Now, if people are going to spend the same amount for a Rolling Stones, or even a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young concert, then why wouldn’t you fork over for a great meal? You only live once, right? For someone whose idea of a fine repast is a tasty wonton-and-egg-drop soup or an In N Out double-double, it’s admittedly a stretch, but Keller’s presentation is anything but snooty. In fact, the array of tastes and textures are designed to take you to that heightened state where every bite elicits groans of approval. The salmon and crème freche wrapped in a hard sesame shell looks like an ice cream cone and goes down like the Platonic ideal of lox and cream cheese crossed with a sushi handroll. The Moulard Duck “Foie Gras Au Torchon,” served with three different kinds of salt and sporting a $30 “supplement” fee, literally melts in your mouth. The coup de grace is a Maine Lobster tail “Cuite Sous Vide,” with “just-harvested” pearl onions and a “ragout” of sweet golden corn and Perigord Truffles (from the restaurant’s own garden across the street) that puts any other crustacean you’ve ever had to shame, a bite-sized morsel bursting with built-in flavor that you don’t want to swallow, but instead roll around in your mouth for awhile to savor its full effect. Then there’s a “Ris de Veau” veal sweetbread that doesn’t have to be chewed, followed by a herb-roasted ribeye of Snake River Farm dry-aged prime beef, a mix between American and Japanese cow, that is perfection itself. An incredible series of desserts and petit fores follows, topped off by a caramel ice cream and butterscotch crunch that hurtled me into a dizzying sugar high. Three hours later, I emerged, not full, but satiated from not just the food, but the impeccable presentation, as the help scurries around, helping, explaining and making sure you’re never at a want for anything. For that time, you eat a meal literally fit for a king, and for my money (with a coupla $38-a-shot glasses of wine, the final tally was $560 for two), you can’t put a price tag on that. —Roy Trakin

2. Brothers of the Head (IFC Films): A remarkable faux rockumentary that is about as far from Spinal Tap in tone as you can get, though it evokes that classic spoof’s sense of authenticity—think David Cronenberg’s creepy but brilliant 1988 film Dead Ringers (thanks to my wife Jill for the reference) with a dose of the gothic fairy tale Edward Scissorhands. Directors Keith Fulton and Lou Pepe, whose previous experience includes a pair of behind-the-scenes documentaries on Terry Gilliam, adapt the 1977 novel by noted U.K. sci-fi writer Brian Aldiss about a pair of conjoined Siamese twins who are signed up by a British music promoter to become a rock band called The Bang Bang circa 1975, right before punk broke wide-open. The similarities to the birth of the Sex Pistols are impossible to ignore, and the music—by noted producer Clive Langer, himself a member of the early '70s band Deaf School—a perfect evocation of the snarl, anger and obscenity of the period. Real-life twin brothers (and English acting school grads) Luke and Harry Treadway give star-making turns as the ill-fated leads, with a supporting cast that includes Jonathan Pryce, Jane Horrocks and legendary filmmaker Ken Russell (Tommy, Women in Love) as himself (along with scenes from Two Way Romeo, a hilariously overblown biopic that he allegedly directed about the pair). The musical performances are spot-on, with the leads doing their own vocals (the soundtrack is on Milan Records), as Fulton and Pepe masterfully mesh “documentary” footage shot at the time with updates from the survivors today, an amazing feat of casting. And check out the denoument, an admitted homage to the ending of Gimme Shelter. This is one of the best rock films of all time, from a pair of guys who not only get the backdrop but know what to do with it. As the old-style British promoter puts it, “I never exploited anyone who didn’t want to be exploited.” Truer words were never spoken about the music biz. If you’re at all a fan of punk-rock... do not miss this film, which is already a sure thing for my year-end Top 10. Check out the “Two Way Romeo” video on YouTube here. For Yahoo! Music exec Jay Frank’s take, see below. —RT

3. Blondie: One Way Or Another (BBC): Originally made for British television, this close look at the rise and fall and rise of the band concentrates on the love story between Deborah Harry and Chris Stein, and the fractious relationship with the other members, and managers, over the years. It’s a cautionary tale, in many ways typical of the Behind the Music triumvirate of sex, drugs and egos that plague most groups, though the background stuff—Debbie’s growing up as a disaffected suburban teen with her adopted parents, the early years scuffling in CBGB, the breakthrough in Australia and the U.K., and the dissolution that ended with Debbie nursing Chris through a rare illness that almost cost him his life as they both attempt to detox from smack habits. To its credit, neither filmmakers nor band shy away from the prickly feelings that drive any band apart, culminating in their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction this year, marred by ex-members Nigel Harrison, Gary Valentine and Frank Infante—who are suing the band—showing up and wanting to play with them on-stage. Throughout, the doc zeros in on Harry, the band’s often reluctant focal point, who Iggy Pop notes admiringly, when explaining why he asked the band to open for them, is “an American pony-tail girl as seen through the lens of Roger Vadim... Barbarella on speed.” There are also excellent segments on how individual songs came to be, which detail the conflicts and differences of opinion that often result in great rock, with drummer Clem Burke and producer Mike Chapman among the talking heads, as well as a phrase-by-phrase analysis of Debbie’s groundbreaking “Rapture” rap, which she allegedly created in about 10 minutes. This documentary may not convince you Blondie was a great band, but it will give you insight into the group’s abiding influence. By joining the Spector girl group sound (“X Offender”) to disco (“Heart of Glass”), techno (“Call Me”), reggae (“The Tide is High”) and hip-hop (“Rapture”), these punk alumni helped forge pop music’s multi-cultural present. —RT

4. Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down (Riverhead Books): Like Stephen King and Carl Hiaasen, the prolific Hornby manages to effortlessly weave pop culture, and specifically pop musical, references into his narratives, so that this tale, basically a novel-long meditation on his favorite The Clash’s classic “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” dilemma, becomes a referendum on Nick Drake’s morose appeal, the ordinariness of Radiohead’s looks, the four personalities that made up The Beatles and the ongoing (ir)relevance of the Stones. A scandal-marred morning TV show host, a single mother of an autistic child, a dispirited American punk-rocker and a wisecracking teenage girl whose sister has disappeared meet on a London rooftop on New Year’s Eve, where they’d all planned to plunge to their deaths. The ensuing story of survival is as unsentimental as it is hopeful, bringing the age-old question of “to be or not to be” to its logical conclusion in the early 21st century. Hornby can be flip, but his heart is as transparent as his opinions (think the cheeky record store clerks of High Fidelity), and you could do a lot worse than this feverish page-turner on a hot summer weekend. —RT

5. Annabeth Gish: As politico Tommy Caffee’s frustrated wife Eileen in the superb Showtime series Brotherhood, this West Wing/X-Files alum turns her pot-smoking adulteress into a character of unexpected sympathy, standing beside her man even as he sinks into a pit of debt. Her secret life—sleeping with the postal worker who was her high school classmate, flirting with the salesman as she buys a $300 pair of shoes she later guiltily returns—is completely understandable given the pressures she’s under, though where she finds the time with three girls and a household to run on a limited budget is a little hard to figure. But Gish’s portrayal of a woman who still clings to her sexuality and desire despite the deadening domesticity and pressures of the middle class’ rapidly eroding economic base shines a light on an aspect of today’s society too often swept under the rug. A remarkable role in what is turning into a show every bit as compelling as The Sopranos. —RT

6. Tabloid Wars (Bravo): Gotta hand it to the home of Kathy Griffin, they know a riveting reality series subject when they see one. The show focuses on the activities of reporters and editors at the N.Y. Daily News on a typical 24-hour news cycle, and if you thought journalism was a glamorous profession, this’ll set you straight. Reporters pound the pavement following up fruitless leads, or simply sit in their cars drinking coffee waiting for someone to tail as the big-wigs huddle up back in the office trying to decide on the following day’s front page while events unfold. It’s all in the name of the city’s highly competitive battle for the eyes of a dwindling readership, with the N.Y. Post constantly in the crosshairs. The highlight of the first few episodes, though, is married gossip columnists Rush and Molloy, who balance attending parties, where they gamely try to glean celebrity tidbits, with raising their young daughter, who runs around the newsroom playing on the computers. Suffice to say, they deserve their own series. —RT

7. Scritti Politti, White Bread Black Beer (Nonesuch/Rough Trade): Up for the coveted Mercury Prize in the U.K., legendary Welsh-born post-punk auteur Green Gartside returns with his first album of new material since ‘99’s Anomie & Bonhomie. It’s the same shimmering, seductive blend of blue-eyed R&B, sweet falsetto and gurgling trip-hop that characterized his Arif Mardin-produced mid-‘80s hits “Perfect Girl” (covered by no less than Miles Davis) and “Wood Beez (Pray Like Aretha Franklin).” Gartside concentrates on the details in the rap shout-outs of the opening “The Boom Boom Bap” (“Sucker MC and Jay’s game/Thirty days, Wake up/Hollis Crew, Rock Box/It’s Like That”) and “No Fine Lines” (“Or there are more than I can draw”). In the midst of the post-modernism, there are also classic-rock touches, like the Smile-esque harmonies that close “Snow in Sun” and open “Mrs. Hughes” or the whimsical Simon & Garfunkel narratives of “Cooking,” “Throw” and “Dr. Abernathy.” From the sounds of his latest, it would seem like the times have more than caught up with SP’s polemical soul, as Gartside wonders in “E Eleventh Nuts”: “Can a man be good to his brother?/Can a woman carry the weight?/Can we work to help one another?/Can we stop before it’s too late?” —RT

8. Sunday New York. Times: Even as a kid growing up on suburban Long Island, where I was tethered to the local rag Newsday and the likes of versatile columnist Stan Isaacs and film critic Joe Gelmis, my family would always get the Sunday Times delivered to our doorstep. Flying back from Oakland to Burbank, we sprung $5 for a copy to fill the hour flight, and it brought me back to my childhood. The Sunday edition is simply the best newspaper anywhere, with an always-superb Arts & Leisure section and a celebrated magazine that last week featured a cover story by Rob Walker on the new entrepreneurial indie brand-meisters, like Aaron Bondaroff's aNYthing, Daniel Casarella’s Barking Irons and Bobby Kim & Ben Shenassafar’s the Hundreds, from the worlds of N.Y.’s downtown art/club scene and L.A’s underground skateboard culture by way of Japan, where many of them first catch on. By even mentioning them and their companies, the hallowed Grey Lady of Journalism drags them kicking and screaming into the mainstream, but that’s all the fun, now, isn’t it? —RT

9. Mad Dogs and Englishmen (A&M Films DVD): This 1971 concert film, financed by A&M Records (Jerry Moss was an executive producer) and directed by Pierre Adidge, who died only three years after the movie was released theatrically, documents the gala 1970 tour featuring Joe Cocker and his all-star band, most remembered today for the way top-hatted, then-newcomer Leon Russell gradually stole the spotlight from the spastic headliner. The troupe rode around in a tour bus from city to city, with the likes of future stars Rita Coolidge and Claudia Lennear, as well as Stones saxman Bobby Keys, ace session drummer Jim Keltner, keyboardist Chris Stainton and doomed Layla drummer Jim Gordon, among others. Black tour manager Sherman “Smitty” Jones is a highlight, gamely ordering 40-some-odd salisbury steaks from a clearly overmatched motel cook and generally herding the unwieldy troupe from stop to stop. The style is reminiscent of the previous year’s Woodstock, with plenty of split screens showcasing Cocker’s manner (there are a number of close-ups of his famed air guitar playing), but the real eye-opener is the roving band of troubadours themselves, bringing their brand of American R&B and blues to the very heartlands where it was born, to an often wide-eyed populace. A period piece that more than holds up today. —RT

10 Gripe of the Week: Unlike everybody else, I’m not mad at Mel Gibson for his anti-Semitic comments. Indeed, in this world of instant Internet information, I’m kinda glad he said what he did and got caught, because now his remarks are out there and can be judged by the court of public opinion, which of course, is no real consolation, given the majority of the people in this country probably agree with his assertion that “Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world,” particularly in light of the latest news out of the Middle East. We live in a country protected by the First Amendment, so people are entitled to their opinions, no matter how heinous. And now that Gibson can no longer hide behind his cloak of faith, he’s fair game for every talk show host, blogger or political pundit out there. As for anti-Semitism, that will continue to exist with or without Mad Max, and as long-suffering Members of the Tribe, we’ve almost become inured to it at this point. Hateful language can only be counteracted with healing words, but after all is said and done, they are still only words. Fortunately, they don’t harm you like sticks and stones, but unfortunately, sometimes lead to them. As long as the Gibson brouhaha is confined to the editorial pages, the better off we all are. In a capitalist democracy, the ultimate ballot is cast in the marketplace. I have neither paid to see Passion of the Christ, nor rented the DVD, and don’t intend to. If you want to make your statement, ignore the upcoming Apocalypto when and if Disney even deems to put it out. That’ll send the Road Warrior a message he can understand loud and clear. Then he can blame the Jews for all the economic boycotts in the world. —RT

Brothers of the Head: This mockumentary about conjoined twins who form a rock band in the ’70s British music scene immediately makes you think of Spinal Tap. Brothers of the Head is so far from that and yet so deliriously accurate that it instantly found its way onto my list of Best Rock Movies of All Time. I first saw it a year ago at the Toronto Film Festival, and based on the description, my expectations were low. But what transpires on-screen is a wholly original concept that nails down the period more vividly than any other flashback movie I've ever seen. Not only do the clothes and cars match, the film stock is precise and the characterizations are spot-on (director Ken Russell makes a cameo, as an example). Most surprising is the music of their group The Bang Bang. Clive Langer manages to capture not just the general era but the specific period in which it takes place (1974-75), writing original music that sounds like a band bridging glam music to punk. I knew full well this was fiction, but the details are so accurate that halfway through the film I began to question my musical knowledge and started to believe this was a real band I’d just somehow missed. All fans of rock movies and ’70s British rock owe it to themselves to see this unique piece of filmmaking and be prepared to be blown away. Now at the IFC Center in New York and the Nuart in LA. Also playing in San Francisco, DC, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia.
—Jay Frank

Lollapalooza 2006 @ Grant Park in Chicago: The festival to end all festivals!! For the second consecutive year, the '90s uber-alternafest will be resurrected in the picturesque shadow of the Chicago skyline. The eclectic lineup features the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kanye West, Wilco, Death Cab for Cutie, SonicYouth, Common, the Raconteurs, Broken Social Scene, Gnarls Barkley, The Flaming Lips, The Shins, Coheed and Cambria and many more.

Friday, Aug 4th
The 22nd annual STREET SCENE is set for today and Saturday in San Diego and will be headlined by Kanye West (Friday) and Tool (Saturday). More than 50 major acts will perform on six stages in a massive 2.5 million sq. ft. area outside Qualcomm Stadium. Doors open at 3:00pm, with music getting underway at 4:00 and continuing until midnight both days. Here’s the skinny on the sked:

Lupe Fiasco

Wu-Tang Clan

Kanye West

The Shys

Rock Kills Kid


Queens of the Stone Age

Social Distortion

Matchbook Romance


Bad Religion


Saturday, Aug 5th
My Chemical Romance


The Shins

Bloc Party

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

G. Love & Special Sauce

Sean Paul

Snoop Dogg

Sunday, Aug 6th
David Matthews w/ David Gray @ Randall’s Island in New York: Wow, nice concert!

The X Games @ The Home Depot Center: Games XII, going down this time in the County of L.A, is as popular as ever. And the competition? It's only become heavier. Take the BMX throwdown, where cagey vets like Ryan Nyquist and Dave Mirra try to hold off a whole new generation of X-rated athletes. Or the up-and-coming women's skateboarding division, whose skate femmes have, in hopes of cashing in on the endless spotlight focused on the X Games, formed their own gang called The Alliance.

Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
Will Ferrell, Sacha Baron Cohen, John C. Reilly, Amy Adams, Gary Cole and Elvis Costello
NASCAR stud Ricky Bobby is a national hero and the best driver in the biz. His racing partner, childhood friend Cal Naughton Jr., makes for a great teammate, who almost always crosses the finish line in second place, right behind Ricky. But when French Formula One driver Jean Girard challenges the duo for racing supremacy, it's a battle the likes of which the sporting world has never seen
Thoughts: This will probably be the funniest movie of the year—every time I see the preview it cracks me up!

Night Listener
Starring: Robin Williams, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, Rory Culkin and John Cullum
Public radio storyteller Gabriel Noone develops an intense phone relationship with a young listener named Pete and the social worker who rescued him from a life of abuse. But Gabriel soon comes to the realization that the boy might not really exist.
Thoughts: The early word on this movie has been really positive, especially the performance of Robin Williams. There isn’t a whole lot of publicity on this movie, but I expect it to be really good.

Little Miss Sunshine
Starring: Toni Collette, Steven Carell, Greg Kinnear, Alan Arkin, Abigail Breslin, Paul Dano
The Hoover family and their 7-year-old, Olive, travel from Albuquerque, N.M., to the Little Miss Sunshine pageant in Redondo Beach, Calif.
Thoughts: Opening nationwide this weekend, this is one of the best-reviewed movies of the year, and the word-of-mouth is amazing. Definitely high on my must-see list

Other Movies opening this weekend:
Yet another animated feature.
Descent: Terror movie about rock climbers.
Brothers of the Head: A candidate for best movie of the year?

V for Vendetta:
Just released this week, and if you never got a chance to see this movie, don’t hesitate. This is my favorite movie of the year so far. It’s a comic book adaptation, and yet it speaks volumes about what is going on in society today (see below).

V for Vendetta:
More than just a comic book adapted for the big screen, this movie 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.
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 non-stop 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.