In a nutshell: "[T]his much-anticipated... satirical view of consumerism... based on a play... has a direct pipeline to
the adolescent mentality... [following a] tiny, fluffy canine companion... whose chief adversary... neo-garage progenitors Fleshtones... got sick from the heat and died five days later."


And On The Third Day, We Rise Again From
The Dead And Read The Sunday Paper

Waddaya know, we get Friday off—probably because Lenny Beer is jonesing to get in an extra 18 holes. Whatever is going through the head of our enigmatic boss, this is a very good thing, and a Good Friday indeed, cuz we here at the HITS cesspool are all about amusing (or is that abusing?) ourselves, and these pursuits are far more pleasantly conducted when we're not required to pretend we're working. Before we blow this pop stand, however, we're required to toss out our weekly agenda of potential diversions to our vast readership (hi, Mom). Done. Last one out the door, flick off the lights and pocket the roaches. Thank you and goodbye, y'all.

Rapid Ear Movement:
What better way to heat up (or cool down) this weekend than to hear six tracks from the eagerly awaited new R.E.M. album, "Reveal," slated for release May 15?  The latest effort is reportedly in a more pop-oriented vein, but check it out for yourself at www.remreveal.com.  The site will remain open only for the weekend. You don't get this kinda stuff in Billboard Bulletin, now do ya?

"Bridget Jones's Diary":
A sort of female version of "High Fidelity," this much-anticipated version of Helen Fielding's international best-seller has been getting some nifty advance word. Especially noteworthy is the performance by always-lovable Renee Zellweger, playing the lovelorn Englishwoman whose diary causes a sensation with its loose opinions on everything from exercise and men to food and, yeah, sex. Apparently the Texas native pulls off the British accent with aplomb. The film co-stars Hugh Grant and Colin Firth and was written and produced by the same team that brought you the equally frothy romantic English comedies "Four Weddings And A Funeral" and "Notting Hill." First-time director and BBC veteran Sharon Maguire is at the helm to provide the requisite female touch, while the Island soundtrack features tracks from Shelby Lynne, Sheryl Crow, Robbie Williams, Tracy Bonham, Geri Halliwell (a cover of "It's Raining Men"), Diana Ross/Marvin Gaye and Chaka Khan. The film's website, www.bridgetjonesdiary.msn.com, is a little scanty, though, considering MSN's "Hotmail" forms an integral part of the plot.

"Josie And The Pussycats": The ultimate bubblegum movie, this confection from the writer-director team of Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfant ("Can't Hardly Wait") is supposedly a satirical view of consumerism wrapped up in the tale of a girl band composed of actresses Rosario Dawson, Rachael Leigh Cook and Tara Reid. The plot, as it is, revolves around Gloria Swanson-like MegaRecords boss Fiona, played by indie film icon Parker Posey, who orders typically evil artist manager Alan Cumming (once again playing a sinister villain as he did in the recent "Spy Kids") to find a new act for the label. The Sony Soundtrax album was put together by Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds and wife Tracey Edmonds, with contributions from Counting Crows' Adam Duritz, the Go-Go's Jane Wiedlin, Matthew Sweet and Fountain of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger, with Josie's lead vocals by Letters To Cleo's Kay Hanley. Reviews have ranged from ecstatic (Variety) to mixed (L.A. Times) to downright brutal (N.Y. Times), with box-office potential muted by the fact the film seems too sarcastic for kids and too sugary for their parents. See www.josiethemovie.com for a website that is almost as elaborate as the film itself.

"Kingdom Come": Advance word is this all-star African-American cast, featuring LL Cool J, Jada Pinkett Smith, Vivica A. Fox, Toni Braxton, Cedric The Entertainer and Whoopi Goldberg, gets to strut its stuff. The movie, based on a play, takes place at the funeral of family patriarch Woodrow "Daddy Bud" Slocumb, during which the sweltering summer heat brings out everyone's long-suppressed emotions, giving new meaning to the term "dysfunctional family." Principals include Charisse (Pinkett-Smith), sick of her bumbling, unfaithful husband; the family peacekeeper Lucille (Fox), her hands full with the avaricious funeral director; her husband (LL), who'd prefer burying his family to his father, and Reverend Hooker (Cedric), who almost derails the burial with a case of stomach cramps. Of course, the feel-good climax has the dead man teaching them all a valuable lesson about what's important in life before he's finally laid to rest. The soundtrack, on BMG-distribbed Gospo Centric label, features original songs from hot gospel artist Kirk Franklin. The movie was directed by Doug McHenry ("Jason's Lyric," "House Party 2"), one-time partner of the late George Jackson, who headed Motown Records under then-Mercury boss Danny Goldberg. For more, see www.foxsearchlight.com.

"Joe Dirt": It's all about the mullet—haircut that is—in this David Spade vehicle about a white trailer trash orphan left behind by his parents while touring the Grand Canyon back in the '70s who subsequently becomes a janitor. The movie is a paean to those times, accompanied by a musical soundtrack filled with the sounds of AC/DC, Van Halen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Cheap Trick, Eddie Money, the Doobies and the like on the Sony Legacy label. The film has the feel of an extended "SNL" sketch, which is no surprise since it was co-written by Spade and the show's head writer, Fred Wolf, and executive produced by Spade pal Adam Sandler—who has proven he has a direct pipeline to the adolescent mentality—at least he did until "Little Nicky." The film's "plot" centers around Joe's search for his parents and features cameos from a sneering talk-show jock (Dennis Miller), a high school janitor (Christopher Walken), a Native American fireworks salesman (Adam Beach) and an alligator trainer (Roseanna Arquette). Apparently, the jokes involve the staple of post-pubescent humorexcrement, fornicating animals, homophobia and Spade sticking his head into an alligator's mouth. If you find any of that faintly amusing, by all means run to your local multiplex. For more dirt, go to www.joedirt.com.

"Amores Perros": This Oscar-nominated Mexican film from native TV commercial director Alejandro Gonzlez Irritu whose title translates to "Love Is Like A Dog" has been eliciting awed comparisons to the surrealist master Luis Buuel for its intertwined tale of three victims of a grisly automobile accident involving an unlikely threesome who express their hopes and dreams through their cherished mutts. One is a teenage punk who uses the family dog to win illegal fights and with the winnings, tries to convince his brother's pregnant wife to run off with him. A narcissistic supermodel with only her tiny, fluffy canine companion goes through a series of meaningless love affairs. And finally, there's a one-time college professor and guerilla leader turned street person, killer for hire and rescuer of stray dogs, who witnesses the tragedy. Like his compatriot Robert Rodriguez, Iarritu seems destined for the bright lights of Hollywood after the feverish reactions to his first feature.  Check www.amoresperros.com for the poop.Roy Trakin

"If we do not succeed, then we run the risk of failure."
—Dan Quayle

Three months ago, few people outside the music industry had ever heard of Denise Rich. Since then, the Grammy-nominated songwriter, philanthropist and society fixture has moved to the front page, implicated in the recent presidential pardon of her billionaire ex-husband, Marc Rich, charged with bilking the government in back taxes to the tune of $48 million from oil deals with terrorist countries like Iran. Now she talks to our own Roy "O.G. Jew" Trakin about songwriting and flirting with Clinton. That's something that neither Time, nor the Billboard Bulletin, have. Here's a little sample of what you'll get when you click here.
"It's been a real blessing in disguise, in a way, because it made me take a break from writing. And when I came back to it, I was much more focused. I did it with a vengeance. I was afraid, oh my god, I'm going to lose it. But you don't lose it. It's all bottled up inside, so when you get to do it, it just comes pouring out of you."

Down To The Wire:
From a couch potato's perspective, the last week of the NBA regular season is usually a snore. The 16 playoff berths have been determined, the starters get rested in preparation for the Big Show and the intensity quotient of the remaining games drops to the level of the preseason. But this late season is way different—in the Western Conference, at least. While the San Antonio Spurs are on the verge of locking up the top seed, there will be furious jockeying for position among the other seven playoff teams, along with as many subplots as a Shakespearean tragedy. Minnesota (currently #8) is desperate to wrest the seventh seed from Phoenix, so that they won't have to face the formidable Spurs. The #3 Lakers, hoping to win out so they can take an eight-game winning streak into the playoffs, would much prefer to face Dallas in the first round than Portland, a self-destructive but deep and dangerous team whose chief adversary is itself; the two teams have identical 49-29 records as this is written. On the other hand, with Kobe looking terrific in his first game back from ankle injuries, while the Blazers' Laker killer Bonzi Wells (ACL) and portly Sean Kemp (in rehab for blow—apparently it just makes him eat faster) are out of the picture, L.A.'s chances would seem to have improved should the teams meet. We'll get a preview Sunday (2:30 PDT) when the Blazers come into Staples Center for what should be an all-out war. That's just one of several head-to-head match-ups between playoff-bound teams during the next few days, starting tonight with the Wolves at Lakers and #2 Sacramento—the only team with a shot at overtaking the Spurs—at San Antonio. (Why is TNT not airing this game?) . For my money, there's nothing more dramatic than a close NBA game conducted at playoff intensity. This oughta be good.
—Bud Scoppa

The Strokes, "The Modern Age" (Rough Trade U.K.); "Selections from Nuggets II" (Rhino):
In this era of studio-polished rock and pop, there is something alluring about their joined garage-band roots that keeps true aficionados coming back for more. These two discs represent that underground aesthetic in all its glory, tracing the genre's three-chord sturm und drone and primitive psychedelia from the '60s to the current day.

The Strokes, newly signed to RCA Records, represent the glorious avant-rock tradition of the Velvet Underground through Television and the Ramones to Sonic Youth. It's the kind of thing rock critic types will salivate over and the general public will probably shun like the plague, but that shouldn't prevent you from glomming onto the buzz. Predictably, the group has already attracted a cult following in the U.K. with this three-song EP on England's historic punk Rough Trade label. The title track starts off like "Foggy Notion"; "Last Nite" could be a Television outtake, with a Robert Quine-esque gnarled guitar line snaking throughout; and "Barely Legal" is a deadpan Lou Reed-by-way-of-Dylan hipster rant that builds some white heat through studied cool. Of course, their prep-school, Manhattan boho pedigree shines though, but at least they have some reverence for what came before.

Rhino's follow-up to Lenny Kaye's legendary tribute to the first generation of American punk, the upcoming four-CD "Nuggets II" set focuses on obscurities from the first British invasion that never really made the move across the pond, engendering offshoots such as mod, flower power, R&B, freakbeat and twee-pop. This one-disc sampler features the Creation's "Making Time" and Fire's "Father's Name Was Dad," which sound like long-lost Who/Kinks rarities. The acid-pop of the Smoke's "My Friend Jack," Tomorrow's "My White Bicycle" and the Eyes' echoed harmonica plaint in "When The Night Falls" channel the Yardbirds and Stones, while foreshadowing neo-garage progenitors Fleshtones and Inspiral Carpets' in a sign of things to come. Garage-rock will never die. —Roy Trakin

Bigger Lovers, "How I Learned To Stop Worrying" (Black Dog):
Rockcrits and other obsessive-compulsives will have a grand time playing Spot The Influence throughout the densely packed 39 minutes of this Philly band's debut LP. I'm picking up Big Star, naturally, but here it's the Chris Bell side of pop's ultimate cult band rather than yer more typical Alex Chiltonisms. Likewise, there's also a distinct Beach Boys flavor, but it's Mike Love, not Brian Wilson, the quartet evokes, in a move as refreshing as it is heretical. This extra half-turn on the listener's expectations separates the Bigger Lovers from 10,000 other would-be smart-pop bands—that and an underlying sense of Bell-like dread that crops up on such tracks as "Change Your Mind" and "Casual Friday." The band's headiness is reminiscent of Fountains Of Wayne, their spiritual kinsmen at the other end of the NJ Turnpike, although the Bigger Lovers are domestic beer, not vodka martinis—witness the pedal-steel-accented lament "Out Of Sight," which closes the album on a wonderfully doleful note. Some quibbles: I could do without the faux scattered applause tacked onto the ends of the first two tracks, and the silly slacker's confessional "America Undercover" temporarily throws the album off course—irony is not this band's strong suit (but there's a surplus of irony in contempo pop culture, so that's hardly a bad thing). Otherwise, the Bigger Lovers' seamless blend of ebullience and melancholy works like a charm.
—Bud Scoppa

Zachary Taylor, our 12th president, was born Nov. 24, 1784, near Barboursville, VA. As a soldier always moving from location to location, Taylor never established an official place of residence and never registered to vote. He didn't even vote in his own election Nov. 7, 1848—which was the first time a presidential election was held on the same day in every state. After spending July 4, 1850, eating cherries and milk at a ceremony at the Washington Monument, "Old Rough and Ready" got sick from the heat and died five days later, becoming the second president to die in office. He served fewer than 500 days in office. Best Anagram Of His Name: Thy crazy oral A.

Star Wars Starfighter:
This week's game review iz dedicated to all tha "Star Wars" freaks out there like myself who're alwaze looking for tha next hottt sheeit. This iz a game you need to have in your collection along with your "Star Wars Trilogy." So peep this game. "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" So begins every "Star Wars" adventure, and when those unforgettable werdz fade away and the fanfare explodes from your PlayStation 2, fans from all walks of life will know they are in for tha ultimate thrill and a brand-new saga. Star Wars Starfigher branches off from the Episode 1 plot, occasionally intertwining with tha exploits of Obi-Wan and young Anakin, but also telling a unique new story about three original hot-shot Starfighter pilots and their efforts to save tha galaxy. Tha power of tha PlayStation 2 enabled tha designers of Star Wars Starfigher to create immense worlds akin to thoze seen in tha films, with lush valleys and arid deserts that tha pilots blur past at high speeds. Precision control allows gamers to feel the difference in tha game's various spaceships—everything clunky, from huge freighters and sleek Naboo fighters to several never-before-seen ships. And hidden deep in tha game iz a bonus for fanza secret two-player dogfight! "Star Wars" fans dream of such glory and excitement, and now you are part of tha great Rebellion. May tha force be with you alwaze. —Latin Prince

Upcoming Birthdays
April 13-19

13—Samuel Beckett (would have been 95) & Al Green (55)
14—Loretta Lynn (66) & Ritchie Blackmore (56)
15—Dave Edmunds (57) & Emma Thompson (42)
16—Charlie Chaplin (would have been 112) & Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (54)
17—Thornton Wilder (would have been 104)
18—Rick Moranis (47)
19—Don Adams (75)

Special Events
13—Good Friday & Friday the 13th
16—Pay The IRS Day
19—Sumardagurinn Fyrsti (Iceland)

No Apology Necessary: Wouldn't it be cool if it rained fire, cleansing the planet with a baptism of lava and flames? Either way, here's your Easter weak-end weather. In N.Y.C., Friday will be mostly cloudy, with temps ranging from highs in the mid-60s to lows in the low 40s. It will be windy, so get the kites out. Or whatever. Saturday and Sunday will be similar, with a chance of rain late Sunday night. In Los Angeles, which is a lot like a city on fire, Friday and Saturday will be partly cloudy, with highs in the mid-60s and lows in the low-50s. Sunday will be gorgeous, mark my words—clear, with a high in the mid-70s and a low in the mid-50s. Please people, go to the beach--that's why it's there. In Cincinnati this weekend, expect rioting and mayhem as the African-American community reacts to the death of the fourth black man at the hands of the police since November. Those braving the overnight curfews can expect temps in the mid-40s, with rain Saturday and Sunday. Fight the power.
—David Simutis, apprentice meteorologist/social commentator

Jo wants her father to attend an award ceremony where she will be honored, but is afraid that her classmates will find out about his disreputable past.

Maren! Luke! Carly! (4/19a)
Who's next? (4/16a)
"RAPSTAR" is accurately titled. (4/16a)
It's exclusive, but you're invited to come on in. (4/19a)
"Fearless" takes flight. (4/16a)
The musical tapestry we know as R&B.
Predicting the next big catalog deal.
Once we all get vaccinated, how long before we can party?
How is globalization bringing far-flung territories into the musical mainstream?

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