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In a nutshell: "Magic used to...steal billions of dollars... from the 7-Up commercials... with...kinda creepy...emotional truths...[and] freewheeling style... much like...30 little Girl Scout darlings... born after the
Civil War."

A NAIL-BITER OF A WEAK-END PLANNER

Here’s Hoping This Planner Doesn’t Disappear
As Easily As Kobe Bryant
Appropriately enough for Angelenos, the week ahead is distinguished by Flag Day (June 14). What better national holiday is there to fall during the NBA Finals? Especially in a town where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a vendor of those little car-window Lakers flags. Of course, people in this burg are hoping that the next couple games give them a reason to take those flags up from half-staff. Sure, there’s other stuff to do this weekend, other events going on this week, but does anyone in L.A. (or Philly, for that matter) really care? Do they care that Halle Berry’s boobs can be viewed on the big screen for only $9? Do they care that Jim Varney’s final thesping will also hit the theaters? Do they care about Griffith Park, Haruki Murakami or Warren Gamaliel Harding? Probably not. Chances are, they’re all thinking one thing: "By this time next week, we can be up three games to one with a chance to win in Philly... or we can be swept."

BUT WHAT WAS THE QUESTION?
We won’t be sweeping this weekend after all, kids—not after NBC got its wish in the smashing reality-based miniseries it premiered Wednesday night. The series is titled The NBA Finals, but the network’s pet subtitle is David Vs. Goliath, and the story arc is a doozy so far, thanks in large part to a small guy known to his homies as "The Answer." The ratings for Game One indicate that millions of people are hooked on this series, and they’re all dying to see what happens to the little guy and the Really Big Guy standing between him and his goal. And we haven’t even touched on the multiple subplots. TV doesn’t get any better than this. Game Two is Friday at 6; Game Three is Sunday at 4:30. As Magic used to say, it’s nervous time. —Bud Scoppa

TRAKIN'S PICKS TO FLICK
Swordfish
:
The real question about this cyberthriller is whether John Travolta can once more resuscitate his sagging film career by playing a bad guy. This time he’s a former intelligence agent who masterminds a high-tech operation, which goes by the name of the movie, to steal billions of dollars from a DEA slush fund. The second question is whether the 500k Joel Silver paid Halle Berry—who plays Travolta's partnerto bare her breasts in a reportedly superfluous topless scene (if there could be such a thing when it concerns Halle Berry) is enough to pump some life into the action producer's sagging career. X Men's Hugh Jackman takes a reportedly star-making turn as a superhacker/idealistic anarchist turned penniless trailer park resident brought in to put the plan into effect for $10 million. The great Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights, Traffic) is also on hand as an FBI agent, as is playwright Sam Shephard as a corrupt politico, apparently in need of some f-you money. The problem with these computer movies is the act of typing on a keyboard isn't generally very kinetic but director Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds) appears to have concocted enough of his patented car crashes to keep things lively, as well as a scene at a terminal involving oral gratification. The London-Sire soundtrack, featuring DJ extraordinaire Paul Oakenfold, bodes well in a Tangerine Dream kind of way, and the http://www.operationswordfish.com website looks better than the movie.

Evolution: Ivan Reitman returns to Ghostbusters territory with this comic sleeper, which is reportedly a combination of the underrated Tremors, Day of the Triffids and the hit of a few summers back, Men In Black. The premise is a meteor hits earth and sets off a chain reaction that launches a cell into a speeded-up Darwinian cycle that results in ever-more-horrific digital dinosaurs and assorted creatures. The execution probably rests on whether David Duchovny and Julianne Moore, never exactly the first actors that come to mind when you think comedy, can wrench enough deadpan humor out of their roles as caretakers of Western Civilization. Meanwhile, from the trailers, it sure looks like co-star Orlando Jones, the guy from the 7-Up commercials and this year's Double Take opposite Eddie Griffin, is ready to bust wide-open as the new Arsenio Hall, which begs the question as to what happened to the old Arsenio Hall. So that's what they mean by "evolution." It could be a hot-weather hit, though the website at http://www.countingdown.com/evolution is rather chintzy and the soundtrack's on Varese Sarabande, so obviously expectations are not huge.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire: The latest animated entry from the Walt Disney factory, which hasn't been churning out the monster summertime hits as they have in the past. Curiously little advance buzz on this one. Michael J. Fox is aboard in the lead, with James Garner, Mark Hamill, Leonard Nimoy, David Ogden Stiers, Don "Father Guido Sarducci" Novello, rock singer Cree Summer and, in his last performance ever, Jim Varney. The animation pays homage to the retro-futuristic view of Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, a Disney favorite, and combines that with the theme of the lost continent. A significant departure for Disney is the fact the film is a straight animated action film and doesn't include the music the studio's full-length cartoon features are known for—and along with the fact it's supposedly kinda creepy, it could well cut into its box office potential. The Disney Records score soundtrack features just one James Newton Howard song, so be forewarned. The rather confusing website is at http://www.disney.go.com/disneypictures/atlantis/flash/index.html.

The Anniversary Party: Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming co-directed, co-wrote and co-star as a Hollywood couple (actress and director, respectively) whose celebration of six years of matrimony unravels into an all-nighter of harsh emotional truths and ego-destroying zingers in what sounds like a cross between Henry Jaglom, John Cassavetes and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Among the industry guests who stop by to reveal the corrosive pitfalls of married life in contemporary L.A. are Phoebe Cates, Kevin Kline, Gwyneth Paltrow and veteran indie/Perfect Storm character actor John C. Reilly, who always manages to enliven the proceedings. It was apparently well-received at Cannes, and it's counter-programmed against a slew of hot weather whiz-bang entertainment, but it still looks like it's got a snowball's chance in Van Nuys at the height of summer to survive in this field. The RCA Records soundtrack was engineered by Michael Penn, and intersperses old songs by Henry Mancini, Marlene Dietrich, Lulu and Petula Clark with new ones by the eels.  The low-key but nevertheless evocative website can be seen at http://www.theanniversaryparty.com/frames.html.
Roy Trakin

SONS OF A WICHITA LINEMAN
The Webb Brothers, Maroon (Mews 5/Atlantic): Christiaan & Justin Webb
may have attracted some attention for being the sons of songwriting legend Jimmy Webb, but they’re making fans with their own crafty take on the pop-rock tradition. Their finely wrought, melodic tunes—spiced up by Stephen Street’s inventive, stylish production—cast quite a spell, recalling the freewheeling style of their dad's generation without seeming like a throwback. Among the hookiest tracks: the melancholy "I Can’t Believe You’re Gone," the devastatingly lovely "All the Cocaine in the World" and the infectious "Summer People."
—Simon Glickman

LP’S PS2 GAME OF THE WEEK
Tokyo Extreme Racer Zero:
I want to dedicate this one to all my rice rocket mofo’s out there, cuz if yer into racing, NASCAR, Formula 1 specially this type of street automobile, this iz tha game for you. So I recommend you get this game and buy a ticket to tha new flick The Fast & the Furious & holla back at cha playa LP. Tha streets of Tokyo are known for world-class sports car races... you just haven't heard much about these races because they're not legal. Made infamous in Midnight Club, tha unlawful nighttime highway drags are on tha run again in Tokyo Extreme Racer Zero. You're looking at tha more faithful recreation of tha illegal sport right now—from tha realistic recreations of 60 Japanese sports cars to tha incredible graphic sheen kicked out by the PlayStation 2, Tokyo Extreme Racer Zero iz frighteningly realistic and unsafe at any speed. Tha heart of this game is in tha car mod options—you'd better customize your car for top performance if you're expecting to beat out tha sharks on these roads. Cruise tha highways of Japan looking for racers, then gun the engine and out-pace them while weaving in and out of speeding traffic. If you can't handle it, drive in tha daytime and leave tha night to the real cruisers.
—Latin Prince AKA Jedi Master

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"There are several good protections against temptation, but the most popular is cowardice." —Mark Twain

TURNING JAPANESE PAGES
Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Wood (Vintage trade paperback):
I came upon Murakami by way of two darkly fascinating short stories that ran in The New Yorker recently. Lenny Beer had turned me on to Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans, which I’d found to be deep and mesmerizing, so I impulsively went straight to another contemporary Japanese novelist—besides, how could I resist a book titled Norwegian Wood? When Murakami, a self-described writer of "weird stories," came with this pop-culture-celebrating coming-of-age narrative in 1987, he was propelled from cult figure to Japan’s bestselling author—and this recently published English translation makes it clear that the novel’s appeal is universal. Set in the late ’60s—as rocking and turbulent a time in Japan as in the States—Norwegian Wood tells the story of Toru Watanabe, a level-headed college student who moves from innocence to experience in psyche-shattering fashion, much like Nick Carroway, the narrator of Toru’s favorite novel, The Great Gatsby. Murakami gets the flavor of the era and his settings with sense-stimulating vividness—so much so that you can practically hear the soundtrack, featuring Bill Evans, Kind of Blue and lots of Beatles. But it’s his skill at bringing life to his characters—particularly Naoko and Midori, the two complex women Toru loves—that make the novel so intensely readable. I’m going back for more Murakami—right after I read An Artist of the Floating World, an earlier Ishiguro novel Beer just lent me.
—Bud Scoppa

SITE OF THE WEEK
For Lucky Best Wash, Use Mr. Sparkle:
When I was in high school, a friend of mine gave me a birthday present that was a cheap dashboard hula girl—the kind with the suction cup on the base and the spring inside so she hulas during your whole trip. He had purchased it from some backwoods convenience store, which was filled with all sorts of outdated oddities. He bought the hula girl not because she was a hula girl, but because of the instructions inside. Printed on a tiny slip of red paper, no bigger than a fortune one might find in a cookie, were these words: "Wetted rubber suction before stick." Perhaps it is that connection to my past that makes me love the Japanese English site www.engrish.com so much. But it’s probably the weird syntax that Japanese advertisers use in connection with their products, that bizarre amalgam of words and images. Like the T-shirt quoted on the site that reads, "an erotic relationship with proper names." The Hug & Kiss Taste cup of soup container that asks the question, "Shall we refresh with open air?" The Fresh brand bendable straws that proclaim, "Flexible straws which we can bend freely are very convenient for us." What consumer in his right mind would resist BM brand canned coffee, Eye Power blueberry candy "tablets" or Flavono triple combination hi-tech chewing gum? And is there one among us who can decipher just what Bourbon Pickle Ex brand bourbon stick chocolate, lemon milk flavor, might taste like? Bourbon and pickle? Chocolate and lemon? Milk and Pickle? I think it’s not about finding the answers, but clearing the mind with such imponderables. –Jeff Drake

CURIOUS NEWS STORY OF THE WEEK
Because Proper Manners Separate Us From The Beasts:
British police are seeking a flatulent officer after a family complained that a policeman broke wind in their London home during a drug raid and failed to apologize. "We can confirm that the [Department of Professional Standards] is investigating an incivility charge during the search of a home under the Misuse of Drugs act," A Scotland Yard spokesman confirmed. "An allegation has been received from a person in the house that one of the male officers broke wind and did not apologize to the family," a letter from the Yard to the officers involved read. "The complainant felt it was rude and unprofessional." Apparently, the use of gas during drug raids is closely monitored. There was no word on just what sort of punishment the officer might receive if found guilty of flatulation. Also curiously absent from the story was any mention of whether the family in question was actually guilty of drug offenses after all. –Jeff Drake

KENYA’S KORNER
Take a hike!
Summer is here—OK, damn intellectuals, the official first day of summer isn’t for another two weeks, but Memorial Day weekend kicked off the BBQ season, the weather is warming up and stores are saturated with body-camouflaging swimsuits—sure signs that the season of sun-kisses is upon us. With that, and the thought of us in bikinis and Speedos, it’s time to get outdoors and get some exercise. How about a nice, brisk hike in L.A.’s Griffith Park? You can head up Mt. Hollywood for a gorgeous view and work out those flabby thighs. The park has trails, but wandering off into the sparsely developed areas is A-OK, too. We recommend it for industry weasels. After all, Griffith is a wilderness area with wild rodents, foxes, coyotes and rattlesnakes—they’ll fit right in. However, should you wimp out on the trek to Dante’s Head, other park attractions include the L.A. Zoo, the Griffith Observatory, the Autry Museum of Western Heritage, and the Griffith Park Merry-Go-Round (whee!) I’m heading up the mount with 30 little Girl Scout darlings to fulfill requirements for the Hiker badge. Tell my mother I love her.
—Kenya M. Yarbrough

PRESIDENTIAL FACT OF THE WEEK
Warren Gamaliel Harding, our 29th president, was born Nov. 2, 1865, near Corsica (now Blooming Grove), OH. Harding helped organize the Marion (OH) People's Band, in which he played the helicon, a tuba-like instrument. An Ohio admirer, Harry Daugherty, began to promote Harding for the 1920 Republican nomination because, he later explained, "He looked like a President." The first American president to take office after World War I, Harding was also the first president to be born after the Civil War. Two years into his administration, in August of 1923, Harding died in San Francisco of a heart attack. Best Anagram Of His Name: He’ll ring a weird anagram.

MARK YOUR CALENDARS!
Upcoming Birthdays

June 8-14
8—Frank Lloyd Wright (would have been 132)
9—Cole Porter (would have been 109) & Jackie Mason (70)
10—Judy Garland (would have been 79)
11—Joe Montana (45)
13—Paul Lynde (would have been 75)
14—Boy George (40)

Special Events
June is Gay Pride Month
11—Cataclysmos Day (Cyprus)
13—Banana Slug Races (Olympia, WA)

"FACTS OF LIFE" SUMMARY FOR THE WEEK
The girls set up a date between the much-admired French teacher and Blair's handicapped cousin Geri, but then get suspicious when he asks for another date.

HITS LIST: AMPERSANDS
Dynamic duos (12/3a)
TAYLOR'S TREMENDOUS YEAR
She'd make one helluva CEO. (12/3a)
THEY CALL THE WINDFALL MARIAH (HOLIDAY EDITION)
Ch-chingle bells (12/3a)
SONG REVENUE:
BOWS OF HOLLY
Adele is money. (12/3a)
UTA MUSIC EXPANDS IN NASHVILLE
Reshuffling the deck (12/3a)
CHESTNUTS
Roasting.
STOCKINGS
Stuffing.
PIPERS
Piping.
SANTA
Coming.
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