In terms of the action sequences, this is the best comic-book movie since Tim Burton’s Batman. In fact, the shots of Spidey bouncing in and out of the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan are so exhilarating, it’s a bit of a comedown when the movie stops to catch
its breath.


Eight of Them, as We Get Spider-Man Fever. Dude, It’s a Web Page, Right?
We humbly dedicate this weekend to The Will to Win: Spider-Man making the world safe for democracy, and for Kirsten Dunst. Lakers money man Robert Horry, oblivious to the Portland bench freaking out right behind him, sinking the series-winning three-point shot. Jason Kidd, dead on his feet, taking the formerly woebegone New Jersey Nets past the Indiana Pacers in a grueling double-overtime elimination game and into the second round. Paul McCartney, after witnessing the horrors of Sept. 11 and dealing with another death in the family, that of Beatle George, generously bringing his extraordinary body of work to the American people. Treasure these images, kids—heroes are in our midst, right now. Hey, there's no rule that says we always have to be cynical.

1. Paul McCartney at Staples Center: I can't look at him without thinking, "That's the cute Beatle?" But I'm definitely looking forward to seeing what many are calling Macca's loving homage to his former group (and I don't mean Wings) through the eyes of my two kids, 13 and 11, who have inherited their love of the Fab Four, now, sadly, reduced to a Fab One for this night. (R.T.)

2. Spider-Man the movie: The thinking person's blockbuster, thanks to star Tobey Maguire, helmer and Evil Dead/Darkman mastermind Sam Raimi (see Trakin’s review below). (S.G.)

3. Spider-Man the soundtrack: Plays like Now That’s What We Call Rock & Roll, as hipsters like Pete Yorn, The Strokes and The Hives mix it up with power hitters like Kip Nickelback and Sum 41—plus the obligatory theme from Aerosmith. (B.S.)

4. Sharon Osbourne: One of the hottest women in showbiz, according to People magazine. Check her out to yer heart’s content in print and on the tube. (D.S.)

5. The Vines, Highly Evolved (Capitol advance): Dude, this Beatles-meet-Nirvana gimmick works! How come nobody thought of it before 21-year-old Sydneyite Craig Nicholls and his chums? (B.S.)

6. Anne McCue, Amazing Ordinary Things (unsigned): Australian singer-songwriter just finished American tour opening for Lucinda Williams, sounds like a female Neil Finn, only folkier and jazzier. (D.S.)

7. The Bachelor (on your TiVo, admit it): Just when you thought reality TV had scraped the bottom of the barrel, along comes a whole new barrel. (S.G.)

8. Bill Clinton: Ready to feel your pain, and whatever else, as a TV host. Meanwhile, President W takes his Speak-n-Spell to the Middle East. (S.G.)

9. Sheryl Crow, C’mon, C’mon (A&M): Multitalent follows up 1998’s introspective The Globe Sessions with a celebration of ’70s rock in all its glory, and all its silliness. (B.S.)

10. Harry Potter DVD: No, honey, Daddy doesn't WANT to watch it again. (S.G.)

Spider-Man (Columbia Pictures): It’s obvious that Sam Raimi set out to make a timeless classic, and as far as the action sequences goes, this is the best comic-book movie at least since Tim Burton’s Batman. In fact, the shots of Spidey bouncing in and out of the skyscraper canyons of Manhattan are so exhilarating, it’s a bit of a comedown when the movie stops to catch its breath. The mostly serviceable plot involves our hero battling the evil incarnate Green Goblin, a sneering, over-the-top Willem Dafoe in a plastic mask that brings to mind the fixed grinning rictus of Jack Nicholson’s Joker. Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst supply the flesh and blood, though, with some truly erotic moments, especially when Dunst peels off Maguire’s Spiderman mask as the superhero hangs upside-down to bite off his lip as she reveals a pair of perky nipples after getting soaked in the rain. The Oedipal subtext touches on the relationship between fathers and sons, with Maguire’s own awareness of his transformation into Spider-Man paralleling his headlong rush into puberty. The film takes off once Maguire dons the famed red and blue costume and starts swinging from the webs shot out through his hands, though the only supporting character who truly registers is J.K. Simmons as blustering Daily Bugle editor J. Jonah Jameson. Look for cameos by Bruce Campbell, veteran of several Raimi films, including Evil Dead, Darkman and Army of Darkness, as the wresting announcer as well as the comic’s creator Stan Lee in a bit part. Macy Gray makes a totally superfluous appearance as herself as does a stray Dr. Pepper can in a blatant product placement. For the most part, though, Raimi has turned out a summer blockbuster that doesn’t sacrifice art for commerce, but tries to find a common ground between the two. —Roy Trakin

If the O Brother phenom has whetted your appetite for bluegrass, you’re in luck—two new compilations offer a stunning selection of authentic hillbilly virtuosity. The BMG Heritage anthology Bona Fide Bluegrass & Mountain Music overtly appeals to fans of the Coen Brothers romp and its T Bone Burnett-assembled soundtrack, and not only with its title. The first three songs were on the ST, though this disc boasts Jimmie Rodgers’ original “In the Jailhouse Now” (limned by Tim Blake Nelson in the flick) and the Carter Family’s definitive “Keep on the Sunny Side,” as well as Harry McClintock’s amazing rendition of “The Big Rock Candy Mountain.” From there, Bona Fide kicks into the rollicking “Shady Grove” by the Prairie Ramblers, serves up a handful of dynamite Bill Monroe sides (including “Mule Skinner Blues”) and kicks out the jams with the Morris Brothers (“Salty Dog Blues”) and Byron Parker & His Mountaineers (“C. & N. W. Railroad Blues”). The collection also veers into starker territory with “Little Maggie” from Wade Mainer and friends and the chilling perennial “Pretty Polly” (here done to murderous perfection by the Country Pardners). It’s pretty strong, overall, but for comprehensiveness and variety, ya gotta hand it to the Smithsonian Folkways folks. Their new Classic Bluegrass treasury boasts 25 stellar tracks—representing mainstays like Monroe, Doc Watson and the Stanley Brothers as well as a host of lesser-known but no less inspired players. From the blur of banjo notes that jumpstart “White House Blues” from Earl Taylor & the Stoney Mountain Boys to the closing notes of Monroe and his Bluegrass Boys’ “Get Up John,” it’s an exhilarating and very deep experience. Among the compelling whistle stops in between: the high-lonesome epiphanies of “Tiny Broken Heart” by Hazel Dickens and Alice Gerrard, irrepressible instrumentals “Cumberland Gap” and “The World Is Waiting for the Sunrise from Snuffy Jenkins and Roger Sprung (with Doc Watson), respectively, and Ralph Stanley’s typically spine-tingling vocals on the Brothers’ blazing “Little Birdie.” Add extensive liner notes by Lee Michael Demsey and Jeff Place, and you’ve got a dream package for devotees. Can I get a holla here in the holler? Simon Glickman

Paul Cantin, “In Through the Out Door” (in No Depression magazine, May-June issue): This beefy piece, the first to examine in depth the fencing match between Wilco and Reprise A&R from both points of view, and the first to zoom in on why two key members were forced out of the band during the making of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, is the sort of intimate, expansive, richly detailed feature that Rolling Stone once specialized in. The extensive, often shockingly candid quotes from such principals as sacked drummer Ken Coomer, ex-partner Jay Bennett, filmmaker Sam Jones (who began shooting his Wilco documentary the day Coomer was ousted) and Wilco’s original A&R man Joe McEwen paint bandleader Jeff Tweedy as strong-willed, gifted, complicated and frequently difficult. According to Bennett, Tweedy “could be accused of using people up—I wish I had a better phrase for that.” A co-author of Foxtrot, and as musically adventurous as Tweedy, Bennett nonetheless believed the album could and should have had an accessible passage into its depths: “a good, fucking catchy song.” Coomer, a kick-ass rock drummer, was apparently neither willing nor able to go with the increasingly out-there direction of the recording sessions. “Sometimes you can be too arty for your own good,” he says ruefully. There’s much more to chew on in this terrific piece by Toronto-based journalist Cantin, which in the end is far more balanced than these juicy snippets suggest. If the music business of this era were ever examined in the provocative manner of Mansion on the Hill, Fred Goodman’s illuminating look at its evolution in the 1960s, Cantin’s piece would serve as a revealing chapter. Bud Scoppa

Hollywood Ending (DreamWorks Pictures): The sad, artistic decline of Woody Allen continues, as the once-hip and lovable shlemiel turns into an angry, embittered old man. The notoriously press-shy Allen seems to be pulling out all the stops in the hopes his latest will reverse his box office doldrums, though advance word is none too promising. Allen plays a washed-up director who is given the opportunity to make a comeback, only to develop hysterical blindness (almost as good as amnesia as a plot device), forcing him to enlist real-life director Mark Rydell as his eyes. Tea Leoni plays his ex-wife, who convinces her new husband, studio head Treat Williams, to give him the gig, causing the Wood-man much neurotic tsuris. Suntan king George Hamilton, Will & Grace’s Debra Messing and Saved by the Bell/Beverly Hills 90210 ingenue Tiffani Thiessen round out the ensemble cast. Some have compared the film to the latter-period, corrosive work of Billy Wilder, like Kiss Me Stupid and One, Two, Three, but a Woody Allen satire of Hollywood almost seems redundant these days. Like his beloved Knicks, Allen has fallen on hard times, and even a major rebuilding process doesn’t look like it’ll restore him to his previous standing. Even the website, www.dreamworks.com/hollywoodending, which offers visitors a chance to enter their favorite “Hollywood ending,” and send an e-card of Woody, Tea or Debra “to a friend to tell them about it,” feels a little tired.

Deuces Wild (MGM): Reminiscent of The Wanderers, the movie centers around two brothers known as the Deuces (Stephen Dorff and Brad Renfro) determined to maintain the way of life in their Brooklyn neighborhood circa 1958 while change swirls around them, including the exit of the beloved Dodgers. The two vow to avenge their brother Alley Boy’s death from a drug overdose and to keep “junk” off their block. When a violent gang known as the Vipers (headed by rising wiseguy Fritzy Zennetti, played by Matt Dillon) threatens to destroy their hood, the so-called Deuces are forced to fight to defend their turf. The eclectic supporting cast includes Malcolm In The Middle star Frankie Muniz, indie veteran Max Perlich (Drugstore Cowboy), Jackass star Johnny Knoxville, Balthazar Getty and Blondie’s Deborah Harry, so it could be better than your average run-of-the-mill gang movie. And director Scott Kalvert’s last flick was the controversial Leo DiCaprio-starring and much-underrated cult film of Jim Carroll’s book Basketball Diaries. His only other credit is the Marky Mark Workout video. The website at www.mgm.com/deuceswild/ is kinda primitive, as these things go, and not all that informative.

A Shot at Glory (MAC Releasing): This U.S./U.K. soccer flick, previously known as The Cup, gets its belated release with this brand-new distributor after doing the festival circuit. Stubbornly Catholic Robert Duvall plays a veteran Scottish coach forced by his American owner (Michael Keaton) to bring in a Protestant marquee player (real-life soccer star Ally McCoist in a performance called the “best ever” by an athlete) who just happened to marry his daughter against his wishes. Duvall is then torn between his anger at his daughter and his desire to prevent the team from being moved out of the fiercely loyal town which has supported it for nearly a century. The movie was directed by longtime Farrelly Brothers pal Michael Corrente, who received good notices for his work on the pair’s 1999 movie Outside Providence. He also directed the 1996 film version of David Mamet’s American Buffalo and the 1995 Federal Hill, which also took place in his Providence, RI, hometown (actually Pawtucket, but it’s a small state). The screenwriter is Denis O’Neil (The River Wild), while the Warner Bros. soundtrack features the score by guitarist Mark Knopfler. There doesn’t appear to be an official website, but there’s some information available at www.upcomingmovies.com/roadtoglory.html. —R.T.

Awright. Well, ah ain’t been a-keepin’ up with these-here NAYSKARs lately, and that’s jes’ cuz ah had some gamblin’ and a-whorin’ to attend to. See, ah got drunk an’ missed mah deadline a coupla tahms. But ahm back, and here’s the skinny: We know who’s gonna win this here race. You kin bet your life on a Ponyack, cuz this week it’s the danged ole Ponyack Excitement 300, comin’ atcha from the high-banked 3/4 mile D-shaped oval of Richmond, Virginny. Now lookee here: All this here pontificatin’ has done tired me out already, so let me break this off for ya quick: Bet the farm on a Ponyack, cuz they runnin’ thangs this week—get it? And here they are: Tony Stewart in the #20 Home Depot Ponyack. Johnny Benson in the #10 Valvoline Ponyack. Ken Schrader in the #36 M&Ms Ponyack. Bobby Labonte in the #18 Intrastate Batteries Ponyack. Stacy Compton in the #14 Conseco Ponyack. That’s the danged race raht there. Pick ’em. But hell, yew know there’s more (this ain’t no cut-rate perdickshuns page). Now, I’m not one for sentimentalitay, but there’s a tear in my beer this week for the classy move being made by the Dale Earnhardt Incorporated organization. The old man may still be dead, but his warm, fuzzy influence continues to be felt from beyond the grave: In a show of solidarity with the friends and family of the recently departed Lisa “Left Eye” “I’ll burn your fucking house down” Lopes of R&B sensations TLC, Dale Sr.’s lovely widder, Theresa, has instructed all three DEI teams—fronted by drivers Dale Jr., Steve Park and Michael Waltrip—to apply black “Left Eye” stripes under the left headlights of they cars. In addition, all over-the-wall pit crew will pull off them 15-second pit stops while wearing black stripes under they left eyes. Beeleeve it or not, ah ain’t makin’ this up. As a further show of support and good wishes for the fallen celebritty, Jr. has promised to torch the DEI motorhome in the infield during the race. Now, what this reporter is wondering is whether them required-by-law fahr ixtanguishars is up to the challenge. Enjoy the race.
—Guy W.T. Goggles

The lineup at this year’s Coachella Festival was certainly A-list, so why wasn’t I there? If you’ve ever heard This American Life on NPR, you understand how the opportunity to attend a talk given by TAL host Ira Glass at UCSB was the obvious choice. This American Life is a weekly one-hour show that explores a series of real-life experiences (or “Acts”) around one central theme. Recent episodes have included the topics “Pimping Anthropology,” “Naming Names,” “Hoaxes,” “Perfect Evidence,” “Do-Gooders” and “Office Politics.” Ira and his staff spend months doing interviews for each show, after which they add music and employ creative editing techniques to heighten the entertainment value and emotional impact of each piece. Quite simply, this is the most compelling hour of radio anywhere on the dial—I plan my Saturday mornings around TLA, 10 a.m. on KCRW (89.9 FM) here in L.A. To hear samples of recent shows (including contributions from frequent contributor David Sedaris), check out www.thisamericanlife.com. To hear the show online, listen to www.kcrw.org from 10-11 a.m. Saturdays, and again from 7-8 p.m. nightly.
—Ivana B. Adored

Moving an entire office sucks. Totally. But moving right along, there's tons of great shows in New York City this weekend, starting with Friday's rescheduled Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds show at the Beacon Theatre. Originally scheduled for October, it got postponed due to the events in September. It's already sold out, but if you'd rather not scalp tickets, there's a couple of other great choices, including alt-country singer/songwriter Neko Case & Her Boyfriends at Maxwell's or pretty pop things The Ladybug Transistor at the Knitting Factory. Saturday, New Jersey's best rock band, Rye Coalition, performs at Brooklyn's North 6. If you're looking for something a little less kickass, there's also Kristin Hersh coming to the Knitting Factory. On Sunday, the emo kids are going to have a hard time choosing between Rainer Maria at Maxwell's and Pedro the Lion at Bowery Ballroom. I do, however, highly recommend the Pedro the Lion show for opener TW Walsh, who I believe to be one of the most brilliant yet overlooked songwriters out there right now.
—Heidi Anne-Noel

His first stop at the top (5/6a)
Khaled gets another party started. (5/6a)
A heartwarming virtual hook-up (5/6a)
Vaxxed and masked, Nicole ventures out. (5/6a)
The Great White Way begins to repopulate. (5/6a)
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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