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In a nutshell:
"Hijinks continue when the boys run into... jaw-droppingly unfunny... ancient Martian... sportscaster Curt Gowdy and [a]great... bunch of Asians who talk funny... but if you think I'm... locked in an abandoned fridge... with Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa... I’m not sure that’s the best way to... win the Powerball lottery."
THE FLOOR RECOGNIZES THE HONORABLE WEAK-END PLANNER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA
If You Were Wondering Where All That Tobacco Money Went, We Blew It on Liquor and Whores
Look, there’s really nothing going on this weekend. Honestly. Everything happens next weekend—what with it being Labor Day weekend and all. You could make some big plans—we offer up some suggestions, as usual—but don’t you get the feeling that no matter what you do, this weekend just won’t compare to next? I mean, the whole "last weekend of the summer" theme floating around for next weekend completely trumps the "penultimate weekend of the summer" theme attached to this weekend. So, I'm not really sure you should plan to do anything. It may be more prudent just to sit inside and mope. Or grab a bottle of cheap whiskey and sit in a corner in the dark—a loaded pistol in your lap could add a sense of danger!—until the excitement of next weekend kicks in. Come to think of it, it hardly seems even worth getting out of bed. You’d probably be better off just staying there, lying quietly, staring at the ceiling and sighing periodically. That's works best for us...on most days anyway.

TRAKIN'S PICKS TO FLICK
Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (Dimension/Miramax):
Kevin Smith's latest is being called a $20 million home movie, an extension of his Rosencrantz & Guildenstern stoner slacker characters Silent Bob (Smith) and Jay Phat Buds (Jason Mewes). The Joisey lads discover Hollywood is about to turn their comic-book characters into a big-budget movie by Miramax (did someone say Pirandello?). Hijinks continue when the boys run into real and fictional types like George Carlin as a hitchhiker who trades blow jobs for rides; Ali Larter and Shannon Elizabeth as leather-clad Julie Newmar-style cat burglars; Judd Nelson and Will Ferrell as law enforcement officers; and Mark Hamill parodying Luke Skywalker. The flick also features cameos by Ben Affleck (poking fun at his own roles in Miramax duds), Chris Rock, Carrie Fisher, Shannen Doherty, Morris Day and the Time, Tracy Morgan and all sorts of Smith acolytes, inside jokes and arcane pop culture references. I'm more into Smith's relationship movies, like Chasing Amy, as opposed to his Mall Rats/Dogma-style romps, which are way too broad for me. That said, this movie will probably be remembered more for the fact it unleashed Afroman's "Because I Got High," than any of its own cinematic qualities, so rush out and get the Universal soundtrack, which intersperses new wavers PJ Harvey, Marcy Playground, Minibar, Stroke 9, Dave Pirner and Bob Schneider with old wavers Bon Jovi and Steppenwolf. There's also a score album available on Varese-Sarabande. The official www.jayandsilentbobstrikeback.com website is a hilarious parody of Harry Knowles www.aint-it-cool-news.com movie site.

The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (DreamWorks): I've long since given up on Woody Allen as anything other than an eccentric amusement. In fact, I may even prefer him as a Dixieland clarinet player to a comic filmmaker, especially on the evidence of his jaw-droppingly unfunny Small Time Crooks. Working in a '40s, black-and-white noirish style with noted Chinese cinematographer Zhao Fei, Allen is always at his best subverting film genres. And while the trailers don't look promising, Woody's corralled an impressive cast (Dan Aykroyd, Charlize Theron, Elizabeth Berkley, David Ogden Stiers and Wallace Shawn among them) in this seemingly whimsical tale in which he stars as a weasely, self-inflated insurance investigator who faces off against Helen Hunt's college-educated efficiency expert. The two experience hate at first sight until a hypnotist puts a romantic spell on them and all hell, in the manner of mistaken identities, jewel thievery, false accusations and red herrings, breaks loose. Apparently the film pays homage to movies as disparate as The Maltese Falcon, His Girl Friday, Double Indemnity, Notorious and The Manchurian Candidate. And on top of it all, it's a brown fedora and satin cocktail gown tribute to the Manhattan of Woody's dreams. Hey, I'm almost talking myself into liking it, and after his recent legal contretemps with longtime producer Jean Doumanian, it'd be the height of irony if he finally had a box office hit. The film's soundtrack is chock full of Duke Ellington and Harry James big band tunes, though there's no album yet. The website, www.vindigo.com/jadescorpion, offers tickets to see Woody play clarinet and a trip to New York "'40s style," along with a trailer, synopsis, production notes, images and an Allen commentary.

John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars (Screen Gems): People have almost forgotten genre director/composer John Carpenter was the man who invented the slasher movie with his '78 minimal masterpiece Halloween and also helmed the very influential post-apocalyptic Escape From New York (you can see his influence in A.I., for example). It's been awhile since he had a commercial success, though the box office returns on '98's Vampires put him back on Hollywood's radar screen. Just because the last two big-budget Mars movies (Brian De Palma's Mission to Mars and the Val Kilmer vehicle Red Planet) were busts, though, doesn't mean you shouldn't take a look at Carpenter's always rigorous, formal approach to genre filmmaking. The movie takes place in 2176 on the red planet, with people living in distant outposts mining for resources and accidentally unearthing the remains of an ancient Martian civilization, whose spirit warriors have set about taking over the bodies of the human residents to regain control. The movie stars rapper Ice Cube as the planet's most notorious criminal, being brought back to justice by the always-lovely Species star Natasha Henstridge. God, we love a woman in a uniform. As with many Carpenter movies, the bad guy must team up with his captors to battle the deadly undead, with newcomers Jason Statham (Snatch, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels), Clea Duvall (Girl, Interrupted, The Astronaut's Wife, She's All That), the great blaxploitation queen Pam Grier and veteran Joanna Cassidy along for the mission. It still sounds more interesting than Tim Burton's bloated Planet of the Apes. The Varese Sarabande soundtrack features Carpenter's original synth score interspersed with thrash metal by the likes of Anthrax. The website at sony.com/ghostsofmars is based in a spaceship that replicates the film's journey.

Summer Catch (Warner Bros.): We know first-time feature director (and TV producer with partner Brian Robbins) Mike Tollin is a baseball fan from his acclaimed Hank Aaron documentary, so it's no surprise he's chosen the sport as the main topic of his movie starring Freddie Prinze Jr. as a Cape Cod gardener who lives out his dream of becoming a major league pitcher for the hometown amateur team. Some wags are calling the flick Good Will Bunting, for its resemblance to that other New England buddy-buddy movie. The kid's traumatized in his quest by his family's history of failure, including his gardener dad (Fred Ward) and bartender brother (Jason Gedrick). There is, of course, the obligatory forbidden romance with the girl from the rich side of the tracks (7th Heaven's Jessica Biel) whose father (Bruce Davison) disapproves. The film also features an unbilled cameo by Beverly D'Angelo along with appearances by sportscaster Curt Gowdy and the great Hank Aaron himself. The Hollywood Records soundtrack features the first single, Semisonic's "Over My Head," as well as tracks from Collective Soul, Nine Days, The Dandy Warhols, Diffuser, Uncle Kracker, Sum 41, Fastball, Youngstown, Tarsha Vega and Radford. The website at www.summercatch.com includes a nifty batting challenge game.

Bubble Boy (Touchstone Pictures): You gotta love a slapstick comedy about immune deficiency that stars both Verne "Mini Me" Troyer and Howard Stern sidekick Beetlejuice, right? Well, maybe. Director Blair Hayes graduates from cutting trailers to his first feature, a sorta low-rent comedy version of the 1976 made-for-TV John Travolta weepie, The Boy In The Plastic Bubble, where he first met his first real-life love interest, the much-older Diana Hyland. The mother of a real-life bubble boy has already lodged a protest that the film is insensitive to those with the fatal condition. Jake Gyllenhaal (who also stars in the upcoming Drew Barrymore movie Donnie Darko) lives in a—you guessed it—plastic bubble in his parents' suburban home, where he fundamentalist Christian Republican mom (Swoosie Kurtz) warns him of the outside world. His one friend is the very hot next-door neighbor Marley Shelton (Sugar & Spice), who, when she announces to Jake she's getting married inspires the lad to build a portable bubble which will allow him to travel to Niagara Falls to break up the nuptials. Much hilarity ensues, most of it at the expense of a bunch of Asians who talk funny and some Hindus who run over a cow (Jerry Zucker, call your lawyer). Recommended only for those who think seeing Beetlejuice for five onscreen minutes is worth the eight or nine bucks. Otherwise, wait for the expected midnight showing. The original score soundtrack by John Ottman is available on Varese Sarabande. The rather comprehensive website's at www.bubbleboy.net. What, bubbleboy.com was taken? —Roy Trakin

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
"In America, anybody can be president. That's one of the risks you take." –Adlai Stevenson

STROKES OF GENIUS
The Strokes, Is This It (RCA Records):
If anyone can make high-brow pop cool again, it's The Strokes. "I want it all/I just can't figure it out," sings lead vocalist/songwriter Julian Casablancas and he means it, man. And so do I when I say this primal fivesome is the best rock band to emerge from the New York underground since the Beastie Boys. Their critical pedigree is, of course, impeccable, harking back to the formalism of such Velvet Underground spin-offs as the New York Dolls, Television, Talking Heads, the Feelies and the Modern Lovers. Meaning that they're just as much an anomaly as Lou Reed and his bastard sons were in their time, but if you think I'm giving this album the critical darling kiss of death, guess again. Sure, they're slumming Manhattan-bred preppies, but that doesn't mean this can't be the next Nirvana because these boys ain't art-damaged. They're rockers through and through. From the first blasts of the title track, with its deadpan, seen-it-all, throwaway insouciance, these twentysomethings aren't afraid to wear their hearts and minds on their collective sleeves. Guitarists Albert Hammond Jr. (yep, the son of the guy who had a hit with "It Never Rains In Southern California") and Nick Valenti take the most elemental repetitive riffs and build them into wrenching epiphanies that catch and hold. How do I love The Strokes? Let me count the ways: The Talking Heads syncopated intro to "The Modern Age"; the "Marquee Moon" break in "Barely Legal"; the gnarled "White Light White Heat" riffs of "Last Nite"; the Polyrock precision of "Alone Together"; the crackling "Evil Ways" solo in "Alone Together"; and the Cramps punkabilly into Dolled-up "Mystery Girls" tribute to Johnny Thunders in "New York City Cops." "People they don't understand/No girlfriends they can't understand/Your grandsons they won't understand/On top of this, I ain't ever gonna understand," complains Casablancas, but, if you're like me, you'll get it immediately. With Pete Yorn, the White Stripes and now The Strokes, I have seen the future of rock & roll…and it's right here, right now. —R.T.

PRESIDENTIAL FACT OF THE WEEK
George Walker Bush, our current president, was born July 6, 1946, in New Haven, CT, on a big pile of money and stock certificates. Contrary to popular belief, The Dubya, as he is known to some, was never locked in an abandoned fridge as a child. Nor did he, as near as anyone can tell, suffer any massive head trauma during his formative years. While the mysteries of Dubya’s "edication" may never be unraveled, we do know this: He’s done more coke than our first six presidents combined! When he’s not napping or playing with bits of string, Dubya learns about the countries of the world using helpful flash cards made by his wife, Laura, and vice president Dick "Timebomb" Cheney. (Awww, isn’t he cute? Look how his lips move when he reads!) Although he now claims to have given up drinking, I think we all know that if push came to shove, he could drink almost anyone under the table—except maybe his twin daughters Jenna and Barbara. Best Anagram Of His Name: He slew our keg brag.

THINGS TO DO IN A NEW YORK MINUTE
The Wetlands boasts the rock show to be at Friday night. Reggie and the Full Effect (featuring members of the Get Up Kids, who they actually sound like, with a few synthesizers and effects added to the mix) headline a bill that also includes Hot Rod Circuit, the highly underappreciated Ultimate Fakebook and Koufax—indie rock's answer to Ben Folds Five. Saturday has Maxwell at the MSG Theater with opening act Alicia Keys who will, most likely steal the show. And how can you resist "The Voices of Metal" on Sunday at the PNC Arts Bank? Vince Neil! Ratt! Slaughter! Vixen! Dude, it's Vixen! How can you miss that? —Heidi Anne-Noel

SITE OF THE WEEK
And the Wiff! Many of us have long given up our dreams of playing in the bigs, of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Sammy Sosa at the home run derby competition during the All-Star break. But even though reality may keep us from knocking dingers outta the park in real life, it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy that fantasy—let’s say—in our backyard, in a park or in the street. That’s where Wiffle Ball comes in. America’s favorite pastime rethought as a plastic-bat-and-ball pitching-and-hitting contest. Those yellow bats! Those impossible curves! And when weather makes outdoor play impossible, there’s always the Internet. Just go to the Wiffle site and click on the Candystand link. There you’ll find a great one-on-one Wiffle game complete with accurate bat and ball sounds. You can choose among four players of various skill levels (in pitching, hitting and fielding) and three locations The Yard, Morris School and Larkin Street. Personally, I would recommend the latter for one reason: If you hit the yellow and black hot rod parked on Larkin Street, the alarm even goes off. How cool is that? –Jeff Drake

YOUR WEAK END WEATHER
The special "Empty Office" edition. For those of you in New York City who didn’t win the Powerball lottery it will be partly cloudy Friday and Saturday, with highs in the upper 70s and lows in the upper 60s. Sunday will be mostly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms—yee-haw—and temps ranging from the low 80s to the low 70s. Here in Los Angeles, the heat wave is over. It will be sunny all weekend with highs in the low 80s and lows in the low 60s. Now, back to sleep. —David Simutis, Senior Meteorology Correspondent

CURIOUS NEWS STORY OF THE WEEK
He’ll Just Take His Ball and Go Home:
When Peruvian Congress President Carlos Ferrero wouldn’t see him, Eduardo Veliz, 36, got out a sharp knife and cut off a testicle. Veliz had been trying to draw attention to his jobless plight first by yelling at the closed door of Peru’s parliament building. "When [Ferrero] couldn't see him, [Veliz] got out a sharp knife and cut off his testicle," a policeman, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. Firefighters rushed over to Veliz, who was bleeding heavily, and took him to a hospital where doctors treated him for "traumatic castration" of the right testicle. "I'm doing all this to protest my lousy situation," Veliz told doctors after his stunt. Veliz is making quite a name for himself in Peru through genital self-mutilation. Last September, he cut off his penis outside the parliament building after the Congress head (ahem) wouldn’t see him. His penis was successfully re-attached. "He's a laborer. Last year he was asking for work. This time he wanted a pay raise because he says he earns a paltry wage," said Carlos Viera, spokesman at the Dos de Mayo hospital where Veliz was treated on both occasions. "I’m no etiquette expert," Viera added, "but I’m not sure that’s the best way to win an audience with Congress." –J.D.

YOUR WEEKLY FORTUNE
Plus Lucky Numbers!
An actual fortune taken from an actual fortune cookie, actually eaten while writing this.
Your many hidden talents will become obvious to those around you.
10, 13, 17, 27, 28, 32

MARK YOUR CALENDAR!
Upcoming Birthdays
Aug. 17-23

24—Jorge Luis Borges (would have been 102)
25—Elvis Costello (47)
26—Macauley Culkin (21)
27—Man Ray (would have been 111) & Martha Raye (would have been 85)
28—Jack Kirby (would have been 84)
29—Charlie Parker (would have been 81)
30—Fred MacMurray (would have been 93) & Robert Crumb (58)

Special Events
25—Ho Sheep Market (Denmark)
26—Wedding of the Giants (Belgium)
28—Clash of the Titans (TNT)
30—St. Rose of Lima Day (Peru)

"FACTS OF LIFE" SUMMARY FOR THE WEEK
A jealous Natalie is out for revenge when Tootie lands the lead in the school production of South Pacific.

 

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