“The Casting Office is the quintessential L.A. dive bar. It’s small and dark, and the drinks are cheap. The bartender is an entertaining Bostonian named Moses. Tip him well, and don’t talk smack about the Red Sox.”


Life Is Shit and Then You Die, but God Willing, You'll Make It Through the Weekend
Good G-d, y’all, there’s nothing like four or five days off to really spoil you. Bet you thought this work week would NEVER end, didn’t you? Well, it has, kiddies—you’ve earned three nights and two days of mindless diversion, sprinkled with the requisite bouts of self-loathing and mortal dread. Have fun, cuz before you know it, the alarm will shock you awake, and you’ll realize with dismay that it’s Monday morning again.

1. Richard Russo, Empire Falls (Vintage):
Don’t let the Pulitzer crest on the cover of this recently published trade paperback scare you off—Russo’s 2001 novel may be literature, but it’s as much a page turner as anything you’ll see people reading at the beach this summer.

2. The Royal Tenenbaums-Criterion Collection (Buena Vista Home Video): Wes Anderson's novelistic fairy tale of an apocryphal Manhattan family is heavy on the formalism, but the approach fits like a well-worn Rolling Stones album, which not so coincidentally plays an important plot point. Walking the thin line between deadpan irony and hard-earned sentimentality, Anderson's film is unabashedly original, a knowing look at the ties that bind. The new DVD special edition includes some of the original artwork that inspired the film's not-quite-retro/not-quite-futuristic, but always mesmerizing, mise en scene.

3. Garrison Starr & Tift Merritt at the Mint: The uplifting single “Superhero” from Starr’s 1998 debut album on Geffen generated significant play on several big- market Hot Adult stations before tragically falling through the cracks in the priority list at the ill-fated label. Her new disc, Songs From Takeoff to Landing (Back Porch/Virgin), is truer to Garrison's artistic vision but no less radio-friendly than its predecessor. In live performance, her Stones-inspired crew rocks mightily. And wotta voice—ask anyone who caught her brief acoustic set here at the cesspool earlier in the week. Friday night, on a particularly tasty bill, she’s paired with Merritt, Lost Highway’s latest find, who possesses the pipes of a young Emmylou Harris and writes finely nuanced songs suffused with a southern-gothic duskiness. Merritt’s set is 7:30; Starr goes on at 9.

4. The Wilco movie: It’s titled I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, but they coulda called it Heroes and Villains. Crash one of several upcoming screenings to find out which is which. By the way, Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, the making of which is documented in this Sam Jones film, is now officially Wilco’s biggest seller.

5. D’backs at Dodgers: Whaddaya know—an intriguing and meaningful series in mid-July, yet. One has to take advantage of whatever entertainment one can find at this time of year. Word.

6. Lovely and Amazing (Lions Gate): Indie movies don’t get much smarter than this one. With Catherine Keener amazing (as usual) and a completely naked Emily Mortimer absolutely lovely.

7. Tool at the Forum: OK, so the show is Monday night, not this weekend, but we need to take the opportunity to show that we’re not as stylistically narrow as we look (and as you know, we all look like Elvis Costello). These guys are not exactly a barrel of laffs—far from it—but they’re highly skilled, smart and utterly uncompromising. These are the very qualities that could save the record biz if more contempo major-label acts possessed them.

8. Sunshine State (Sony Pictures Classic): Intelligent fare from John Sayles—one of his most watchable movies ever.

9. Michael Jackson, Off the Wall (Epic, 1979): Pull out this breakout elpee and remind yourself how much cred this guy once had—and he looks so fucking appealing on the cover.

10. Robin Williams live on HBO: brilliant in concert; can't wait to see it filmed.

The Road to Perdition (DreamWorks/Fox): Tom Hanks plays an Irish-Catholic mob hitman in ’30s Illinois whose son witnesses a gangland hit and becomes the target of boss Paul Newman and amoral photographer-turned-assassin Jude Law in director Sam Mendes’ eagerly awaited follow-up to American Beauty, based on a graphic novel. The trailers have a Miller’s Crossing feel to them, but the advance word is that several Oscar nods are in the offing, though such serious fare is usually anathema to hot-weather audiences weaned on a series of cartoon blockbusters. The Decca/UMG soundtrack features the Thomas Newman score, along with some big-band swing from Fletcher Henderson, the Charleston Chasers and Chicago Rhythm Kings, as well as a piano duet with Hanks and Newman. The website, www.roadtoperdition.com, captures the movie’s noirish bent, with cast/crew bios, trailers, production notes, an image gallery and plot synopsis.

The Crocodile Hunter: Collision Course (MGM): Real-life Crocodile Dundee, Aussie Steve Irwin and wife/companion Terri star in what could be one of the summer’s sleeper hits, as the popular Animal Planet cable series goes big-screen. The plot concerns a croc that Irwin tries to save from poachers, only to discover it’s involved with a missing top-secret U.S. satellite beacon. The Hunter then goes through the Outback and the bush to get the crocodile back home, as he avoids both bird-eating spiders and venomous snakes. Irwin previously starred as himself in the film Doctor Dolittle 2 with Eddie Murphy, while his show has been seen by more than 200 million viewers around the globe. The film was produced and directed by Aussie veteran John Stainton, who originated the TV series and Irwin’s acclaimed FedEx commercial. The Baha Men’s new version of “Crocodile Rock” is featured in the film, while the website, www.mgm.com/crocodilehunter/home, includes an Outback arcade with a trivia contest, a Concentration game, a maze and a chance to raise your own baby kangaroo. Crikey!

Reign of Fire (Touchstone): For those of you wondering whatever happened to Matthew McConaughey and Christian Bale, they’re in this very cheesy-looking monster click about fire-breathing dragons who incinerate modern civilization. It starts in present-day London, where a boy exploring an underground construction site accidentally awakens an ancient dragon, before it jumps to 2020, and the boy turns into the leader of a band of survivors holed up in a medieval castle. The action sequences, directed by Rob Bowman (The X-Files movie), look pretty good, but the concentration is apparently on the beleaguered humans. The Varese Sarabande soundtrack features the Edward Shearmur score, but the movie features a pair of songs from ArtistDirect’s Mad at Gravity not on the album. The www.reignoffire.com website includes 10 flash episodes and all the requisite information on the plot, cast & crew, behind-the-scenes commentary and showtimes.

Halloween: Resurrection (Dimension Films): They’re sneaking the umpteenth version of John Carpenter’s 1978 horror classic into theatres literally in the dead of night, a follow-up to the surprise success of 1998’s Halloween: H2O. This time, a group of teens wins a contest to spend a night in mask-wearing murderer Michael Myers’ home to be broadcast live on the Internet, only to run into something even scarier—Busta Rhymes. For reasons as yet unclear, the film’s original star, Jamie Lee Curtis, appears, along with Sean Patrick Thomas (Save The Last Dance For Me), supermodel Tyra Banks (Chris Webber’s main squeeze) and American Pie’s Thomas Ian Nicholas. Advance word insists this is one of the better installments in the series, with Halloween II director Rick Rosenthal returning to do the honors. Doing its best not to raise expectations, the website at www.dimensionfilms.com/halloweenresurrection, offers nothing more than cast and crew credits and a plot summary.

Gangster No. 1 (IFC Films): A Guy Ritchie-meets-Quentin Tarantino British gangster flick that could be this year’s Sexy Beast, with what is being called a career-making performance by young actor Paul Bettany, who received great notices as Geoffrey Chaucer in A Knight’s Tale and Russell Crowe’s college roommate in A Beautiful Mind. Add in advance word that Malcolm McDowell has returned to A Clockwork Orange intensity and you have the possibility of a true sleeper. The two play the same character at different ages, Gangster 55, a bad guy who wants nothing more than to become the titular “Number One” under the suave tutelage of the boss kingpin, played by David Thewlis (Naked). Director Paul McGuigan (The Acid House) takes us from the mod ’60s to the present with much stylistic panache and a classic jazz score by John Dankworth, whose films include mod gems like Darling, Morgan and Modesty Blaise. The website, at www.gangster1.com, offers a selection of banned clips, images and info about the movie’s production.

Sex and Lucia (Palm Pictures): Spanish writer-director Julio Medem’s tale of a Madrid waitress (the luscious Paz Vega) who takes off for an island after her writer boyfriend is killed in an accident has been called “one of the most erotic movies ever made”—and that’s good enough for us. The hyper-romantic plot veers between the past and present as in the work of such masters of temporal manipulation as David Lynch and Christopher Nolan. Could be worth a look-see for those with more adventurous tastes, and especially anyone that responded to Y Tu Mama Tambien. The website, at www.sexandluciafilm.com, offers the pertinent information, including audio selections from the soundtrack by Alberto Iglesias. —Roy Trakin

Sam Jones is one talented mofo. A noted photographer whose work has appeared in some of the shiniest, most perfume-scented magazines our nation has to offer, he’s also a gifted singer-songwriter who recently put out his own album of rootsy pop (see review, 5/23). Now Jones has made his directorial debut with I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, a vibrant black-and-white documentary about the inventive rock band Wilco. Once shoved into the "y’alternative" ghetto as a descendant of founder Jeff Tweedy’s former project, Uncle Tupelo, Wilco pursued increasingly experimental musical textures over the years, culminating in the inspired, difficult Yankee Hotel Foxtrot album. The film chronicles the creation and fate of this record, as well as the shifting interpersonal dynamics of the group. It’s at once a bracing glimpse into the exhilaration of the creative process and a voyeuristic depiction of petty arguments with a Spinal Tap tinge (the exasperating contretemps between Tweedy and Jay Bennett over mixing "Heavy Metal Drummer" could, my girlfriend suggested, be turned into a drinking game). But most of all, it’s the story of how Yankee was completed in a hermetic environment of unfettered imagination, was rejected by Reprise in a period of corporate upheaval and finally landed at another WMG home, Nonesuch. Jones captures all the drama (and extremely goofy comedy) with a discerning, unobtrusive style reminiscent of the great rockumentarian D.A. Pennebaker. Try to catch the flick on Thursday, July 18 at 7:30 pm at Todd AO West, 3000 Olympic Blvd. Santa Monica. Call 213-891-4703 to RSVP.Simon Glickman

The Vines, Highly Evolved (Capitol): Strokes
, Stripes, Hives, next? The timing couldn’t be better for the arrival of this poofy-coiffed, high-octane band from Sydney. The Vines openly worship at the shrines of Lennon and Cobain, and their debut album juxtaposes blasts of Nirvana-derived fury (the single “Get Free,” the 94-second title track) with billows of Beatlesque psychedelia (“Mary Jane,” “Autumn Shade”). Band leader Craig Nicholls, 24, is equally adept at serrated shrieks and dusky warbles, while as a guitarist he reels off the circular riffs both his avatars favored; “Sunshinin’,” for example, revisits “Daytripper,” while “In the Jungle” smells like “Come as You Are.” Rather than slavish, however, the album comes off as affecting and entertaining. Bud Scoppa

Original Sinners, Original Sinners (Nitro):
With Exene Cervenka fronting the debut of this versatile five-piece for Offspring leader Dexter Holland's label, it's no surprise echoes of X are everywhere. “Birds and Bees” and “Who's Laughing Now” sport that seminal L.A. band's patented revved-up punkabilly, while those wailing harmonies are now present not only in “Whiskey for Supper” (featuring guitarist Jason Edge), but in the swamp-blues of “Bringin’ Me Down,” this time with a female vocalist (bassist Kim Chi). Moving beyond, Cervenka proves equally adept at a Knitters-style country twang in “Woke Up This Mornin'” and even straps on a guitar for several Link Wray-style rave-ups like the fuzz-toned surf psychedelia of "Tick Tock," with axe cohort Sam Soto. —RT

Some of you may have been perplexed by the image of a bass guitar’s headstock in this week’s magazine, alongside the legend "801: This 'Baby’s on Fire!’" Here’s the deal: PoMo Queen Ivana, to celebrate issue #801 of our rag, decided to run the cover of the prog-rock classic 801 Live. A collaboration between art-rock innovator Brian Eno, Roxy Music guitarist Phil Manzanera and a group of extraordinarily gifted players (including the great drummer Simon Phillips), this 1976 one-off chronicles a particularly vital period in the history of prog. Eno’s cheeky vocals and songwriting, not to mention a vestigial glam-rock energy, prevent the proceedings from turning into just another trip to Noodleville, yet the music has all the adventurous energy and virtuosity fans of the form could want. My fave tracks are the revved-up takes on Eno’s "Baby’s on Fire" and "Miss Shapiro" and the inspired covers of the Beatles’ "Tomorrow Never Knows" (re-imagined as the funked-up "T.N.K.") and the Kinks’ "You Really Got Me." By the way, the bass in question belongs to Bill MacCormick, who kicks ass.SG

What does almost 10 years of bartending make me? Not richer, but wiser. So, here I am to give you insight on what happens on the other side of the bar—a look at life through a bartender’s eyes.

De’s cocktail of the week: I think the perfect way to introduce this section is with the most special moment of one’s (legal) drinking life—the 21st birthday. The Seven Sees, dedicated to all those who are turning 21, is the bartender’s ultimate revenge. In a shot glass, the bartender combines seven different types of alcohol to make one shot. The goal is to mix the nastiest-tasting shot possible. This shot rarely mixes well with everything else the birthday person has drunk that night, and ultimately he/she will find himself/herself praying to the porcelain God. It’s a sort of revenge in advance for all of the times this inexperienced bar customer is going to tip poorly, lose dinner all over the bar and generally act like a royal pain in the ass. This is will be his first of many lessons on what can happen if you piss off the one in control—the bartender. So, next time you want to wreak revenge on an unassuming friend, order this shot and watch the bartender make it with a look of pleasure in her eyes.

De’s L.A. bar pick of the week: The Casting Office on Cahuenga West, just before Barham. This is the quintessential dive bar. It’s small and dark, and the drinks are cheap. Go on a Monday night when they have karaoke for nonstop laughs. The bartender on Mondays is an entertaining Bostonian named Moses. Tell him Denise sent you; tip him well and don’t talk smack about the Red Sox.

De’s diss of the week: Let me preface this by saying that this place is usually not a diss. Ireland’s 32 on Burbank Blvd. is normally a quaint little hole in the wall that is very low keyed, but not on karaoke Tuesdays. I had the misfortune to be there on a recent Tuesday night. Now, it wasn’t the karaoke that bothered me, it was the volume. The music was so loud that not even the Guinness I was drinking could calm my nerves. Between the blaring music and the screeching of the girls trying to talk over the music, it nearly caused me to go postal. By all means visit this establishment, but never on Tuesday.
—Denise Bayles

Now lookee here: Ah don’t cotton to no swashbucklin’ race-car driver gittin’ all lickered up an’ takin’ his frustrations out on no lady’s headbone, but then what’d yew ixpect frum a dang IRL driver, anyways? All them dang Indy car boys got them some kinda manners problim, ahma tell yew whut. You don’t see none o’ them good ole boys from NAYSKAR breakin’ out the knuckle sammiches on they wimin folks—nosiree. Oh sure, yew occasionally git a little do-mestik dispyoot what leads to a nasty deevorse, as with ol’ purdy boy in the #24 Dupont Chevrolet, but thas diffrint. Anyway, anyone sayin’ anything ’bout that scoundrel Al Unser Jr. besides what a cowardly piece o’ dung he’s showed hisself to be oughtta jes’ put some lips over their word-hole before someone does it for ’em. Thassright. Now, as fer this here weekend’s racin’, we got the Cup cars’ second appearance at the new Chicagoland Speedway for the Tropicana 400. Given that Junior’s gone on the rekkerd sayin’ how he hates the place, ahm-a lookin’ for him to win the whole shootin’ match jest fer spite. And besides, his Budweiser sponsorship represents a potable liquid, jest like Tropicana orange juice, but more fun. Bear in mind that Harvick in the #29 Goodwrench Chevy won the thing last year, but he’s become pretty boring since he got his wrist slapped by them oh-fishuls and lost his edge. Now, points leader Sterling Marlin in the #40 Coors Light Dodge also races for the manyoofacturer of a potable liquid, so ya might keep a lookout fer his action up front, too, but ah say that light beer’s fer sissies. Gimme somethin’ what tastes like BEER, dangit.
—Guy W.T. Goggles

The future's so Light, they gotta wear shades. (6/10a)
The GOAT (6/10a)
He's a five o’clock in the morning guy. (6/10a)
It's dazzling. (6/10a)
Action Jackson (6/7a)
Gosh, we hope there are more press releases.
Unless the Senate manages to make this whole thing go away, that is.
No, not that one.
Now 100% unlicensed!

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