"The story is stretched to the point where we, as the viewer, were desperate for something to happen. When it finally did, we were far past the point
of caring."
——sample pan from Crankycritic.com


A Low-Impact Program Guaranteed to Give You Glutes of Steel or Your Money Back
Has it been a long time since you've rock & rolled? Can you believe the huge point spreads in both of this weekend's championship games? Are you concerned that this crop of January movies may merely be crappy leftovers, as they traditionally are at this time of year? Have you had enough of the old red, white and blue? Are you horny? If you answered yes to these questions, then lower your flag, remove your outerwear and read on...  

Led Zeppelin (Warner/Chappell Retroactive promo):
If you've made the rounds of A&R offices lately, you may have wondered what was in those little black boxes with the exploding-dirigible image that were sitting on so many weasels' desks. Reach for your Publisher Registry now, kids, cuz you're wanna put in a call to Brad Rosenberger and beg him for a copy of this numbered, limited-edition treat. Every so often, Brad, who's the longtime Film/TV guy at Warner/Chappell, puts together a compilation of songs from a writer whose works are in the pubbery's archives; his retrospective of early Harry Nilsson recordings is especially tasty. But Brad's new three-disc Led Zeppelin box has a much broader appeal for the industry's many freebie scammers (who isn't?). The impeccably chosen chronological collection—you'll wear out your Bic flicking it as you Play It Loud—is intended to celebrate the fact that the principals of the legendary band recently began allowing use of their material in movies, TV shows and commercials, after a 30-year blanket refusal. A mechanical license will cost you a pretty penny, of course—but Cameron Crowe was happy to pay the freight in order to get Led Zep onto the soundtrack for Almost Famous, as was David Chase in the case of The Sopranos. If you do manage to score one of these puppies, casually plop it on the coffee table, along with the guacamole and chips, for your Super Bowl party and act smug, like you know something your guests don't. They'll be giving you a Whole Lotta Love when the Big Moment arrives. Bud Scoppa

Cracker, Forever (Back Porch/Virgin): This fifth album since David Lowery traded in the "surrealistic absurdist folk" of Camper Van Beethoven for the subversive sarcasmo-Americana of Cracker is about stretching out. From the faux-maudlin "Brides of Neptune" Lowery & Co. slide easily into the gently weeping "Shine" before ambling toward that most proto-Cracker of tracks, "Miss Santa Cruz County" ("Let's all be someone else/I'm tired of being myself"). Cuts like the subliminally Byrdsy "Superfan" change it up a bit, but the trademark sonic purity and lyrical sneer remain. Lowery cultivates a Dylan-like twang on "Merry Christmas Emily" ("We had some good times/Drinking cheap wine/And popping pills"), but it's all him over the funky slow burn of "Shameless." Rocks effortlessly. Jon O'Hara

William Topley, Feasting With Panthers (Lost Highway): This British singer-songwriter first came to the notice of roots-music fans with his band The Blessing. Feasting With Panthers, his latest collection, demonstrates Topley's grasp of a variety of earthy genres and serves as a stellar showcase of his commanding, effortlessly soulful voice. Like the Stones and Van Morrison before him, Topley seems to have absorbed the textures of Memphis, Trenchtown, Havana and the Mississippi Delta and filtered them through the U.K. rock tradition. Highlights include opener "Back to Believing," the smoldering "Magnolia," the gorgeous, reggae-fied "Excuses," and the sexy, Latin-inflected "Los Largos."
Simon Glickman

AFC: PITTSBURGH 8 over New England
Holy Babe Parilli! This here Tom Brady shore ain't no Babe, but he's done a dang fine job this year. Unfortunately, time has run out on the Pats. Lookie here, if it wuzn't fer the fact that ever'body, includin' me, hates Al Davis, them dang Raiders would be playin' in this here game. The Raiders held the Pats to 16 points in overtime, and they ain't nowhere near as good as the dang Steeler dee-fense. Eight and a half is a lotta points, but ah figger the Steelers win this one by at least 10. Die, Al, die!

NFC: ST. LOUIS 12 over Philadelphia
Boy, howdy, ah shore hate havin' to pick them Rams to cover the huge point spread in a championship game, but let's face it, the Rams ain't no Bears, and ah jest cain't see Donovan McNabb pullin' this one out of a hat. The Eagles secondary matches up great with the Ram receivers, but the problem is, they ain't gonna be able to stop Marshall Faulk. The Rams are gonna run on these guys all day long.
—Guy W.T. Goggles
(Playoffs to date: 3-5)

The Count of Monte Cristo (Touchstone): Yet another Crouching Tiger-styled high-tech remake of Alexander Dumas' epic 19th Century revenge saga. The movie stars Jim Caviezel (Angel Eyes, Pay It Forward) in the title role as the trusting Dantes, who is betrayed by his one-time best friend, the suddenly ubiquitous Guy Pearce (Memento, The Time Machine), who steals his bride-to-be Mercedes (Dagmara Dominczyk). With the help of fellow prisoner Richard Harris (hot off his Harry Potter stint), our hero emerges from 13 years in solitary confinement to seek his vengeance as the mystrerious, dashing, wealthy titular Count. The trailers look pretty kinetic, with action director (and one-time Kevin Costner pal) Kevin Reynolds (late of Waterworld and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) proving a capable technician at the helm. The RCA Victor soundtrack features the epic score of Edward Shearmur, while the www.thecountofmontecristo.com website which allows you to take revenge on your enemies by sending them an e-mail with a link that lands them in virtual jail.

The Mothman Prophecies (Screen Gems): Based on a true story about a Bigfoot/Loch Ness Monster typed phenomenon first spotted in West Virginia (and chronicled in the 1975 book of the same name by John Keel), the movie examines a series of inexplicable occurrences through the eyes of Washington Post reporter Keel, played by Richard Gere, who investigates the mysterious circumstances surrounding his wife's death and its connection to the titular character. Laura Linney, so good in You Can Count On Me, plays a police officer who offers her help, as the two try to unravel the puzzle of Point Pleasant. The movie was directed by ex-MTV video auteur Mark Pellington (Pearl Jam's "Jeremy"), so expect some cinema razzle-dazzle. The movie co-stars such talented character actors as Will Patton, Will and Grace's Debra Messing and veteran Alan Bates (currently appearing in Gosford Park). The trailers look confusing, kinda like Sixth Sense meets The Omega Project. The Lake Shore Records soundtrack features an eerie, disquieting score by Tomandandy. The www.mothmanlives.com website gives you the lowdown on the movie, as well as the history and legend of Mothman, World Sightings and several links to Mothman sites. Spooky, but not as spooky as Gere's ramblings about the Dalai Lama.

Storytelling (New Line): For my money, Todd Solondz is the most uncompromising, unflinching director of human frailties out there, represented by such clear-eyed tales of morality and misanthropy as Welcome to the Dollhouse and especially the controversial Happiness, with its sympathetic treatment of a pedophile. His latest black, bleak comedy is split into two segments, one titled "Fiction," the other "Non-Fiction." The first section details the reverberations of a black college creative-writing professor's (Robert Wisdom) systematic degradation of a student he's having an affair with (Selma Blair). There's an excuciating comic sex scene that includes a bright red rectangle as a self-censorship aimed at keeping the rating at "R." "Non-Fiction," the second story, follows a nebbishy documentary moviemaker (the always delightful Paul Giametti, son of ex-baseball commish Bart) who chooses as his subject a high-school geek with the unlikely name of Scooby (Mark Webber). His parents are played by the deadpan comic pair of John Goodman and Julie Hagerty, while the wonderful Lupe Ontiveros (As Good As It Gets) is the family's maid Consuelo. Solondz is Woody Allen without the therapy, sentimentality or the self-awareness, but with all the neuroses searingly intact. He is the poet maudit of suburban angst, and he sure looks like he's in top form here. There's a website at www.movies.go.com/movies/S/storytelling_2001/index.html, but the studio sure seems to be distancing themselves from this one. Not for everyone, but if you're clued into Solondz's sardonic but generous humanism, this is a must-see.

Kung Pow: Enter The Fist (20th Century Fox): It's the Airplane!/Naked Gun version of a chop-sockey film by writer/director/star Steve Oedekerk, director of Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and writer of Jimmy Neutron, Nutty Professor I and II, Patch Adams and the wacky one-off TV show, steve.oedekerk.com. Admit it, those trailers with the cow doing a Crouching Tiger with its udders are pretty funny, right? And a woman with one large breast in the middle of her chest is side-splitting, no? The website at www.kungpowmovie.com lets you dub your own flick. Not since What's Up Tiger Lily? have so many yucks been squeezed out of wacky Asian accents. Remember, this is how Jim Carrey started.

A Walk to Remember (Warner Bros.): Teenpop star Mandy Moore makes her starring dramatic debut as the non-blonde, plain-Jane minister's daughter who becomes the unwilling object of affection for an aimless teen (red-hot Shane West—so good in TV's Once and Again and parodying himself in Ocean's 11. The rest of the movie is based on keeping the two apart a la Romeo & Juliet . Based on the best-seller by Nicholas Sparks, the studio's been marketing the film to Christian outlets, and the ending's reportedly a real tear-jerker. Longtime choreographer Adam Shankman (Wedding Planner, Inspector Gadget, She's All That) makes his debut as a director, but as far as we can see, there are no dance numbers. The Epic Records soundtrack features several Moore tracks, as well as music from New Radicals, Switchfoot, Toploader and West's own band. The website at www.awalktoremember.com is a primer in cross-merchandising between the WB film, the Warner book, the AOL website and God only knows what else. Roy Trakin

Crankycritic.com: There's nothing like a nice, bitchy movie review, and this site is truly a haven for film freaks craving an honest, unpretentious appraisal of a flick's entertainment value. You won't find Cranky waxing rhapsodic over the bewildering convolutions of Mulholland Drive, for example. "The story is stretched to the point where we, as the viewer, were desperate for something to happen," reads the Cranky judgment, which ultimately deems the film a "monstrosity." "When it finally did, we were far past the point of caring." Furthermore, the blurb complains, the lesbian sex isn't even gratuitous! You won't see that in the full-page ad. What's more, each review ends with a dollar amount Cranky deems worth paying for the film, all the way down to $1. There's also dish aplenty about awards shows, a Best of 2001 summary, and a massive archive of bracingly unsentimental takes on recent releases. If you've burned out on the chirping celebrity worship that normally passes for criticism, log on, spend some time and drop a tip in the jar. —S.G.

Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec:
So you've just watched your copy of The Fast and the Furious DVD, your adrenaline is pumping, and you're aching to hit the gas in that high-performance ride in your driveway. A quick glance outside brings you back to reality, as you ponder if your Ford Escort can really handle those turns that you aspire to attack. Don't worry: While you're saving up for that replacement machine, you can pop Polyphony Digital's Gran Turismo 3: A-Spec in your PS2 so you can truly feel fast, and even furious, as you choose from an arsenal of cars from nearly every major manufacturer, and all of the parts to soup em up to your heart's content. Matt Chong

This Is No Stunt:
Sure, Alan Jackson can hit a Country Crossover nerve and sell nearly half a million albums in one week, largely through the huge public reaction to his "Where Were You (When the World Stopped Turning)" ode to 9/11. Sure, Charlie Daniels can get himself thrown off CMT's Country Freedom Concert 9/11 fundraiser with his less-than-endearing "This Ain't No Rag, It's a Flag (and We Don't Wear It on Our Heads)." And sure, Michael Jackson can wait nearly five months (and counting) to release his "We Are the World"-style benefit single, "What More Can I Give." But can any of this really compare to a professional Stunt Heckler who has crafted his own anthem to the victims of the recent terrorist attacks?
          "America We Stand As One" is the work of Dennis Madalone, actually stunt coordinator and stuntman on numerous film and television projects, including several Star Trek series (though he has in fact appeared twice as Stunt Heckler on Jay Leno's Tonight Show). Madalone wrote and recorded the song in response to the national tragedy and has been working to distribute copies to relatives of the fallen from Ground Zero in New York City. The amateur musician says the song is "truly for the people" and characterizes it—somewhat cryptically—as "a message from our loved ones."
          While the chorus of "U.S.A./America/We stand as one" may not be the height of poetry, its heart is in the right place, and far be it from us to criticize anyone trying to salve a nation's wounds through song—though Madalone's website doesn't specify a relief fund to which (we presume) the $6.95 per copy would be donated. Hear it for yourself at http://www.americawestandasone.com. —J.O.

Hyper Enough As It Is:
Friday brings the return of Le Tigre's live show to the Warsaw. Granted, the club's in Brooklyn but Tigre's shows are always worth the trip. Girls Against Boys are one of those bands that I've never understood. I like their music, their albums are decent—but why all my friend go completely ga-ga over them is beyond me. Check 'em out on Saturday at Bowery Ballroom, and I apologize in advance for the hyper girls in the front row. Sunday check out Her Space Holiday at the Knitting Factory. Their live show was a little iffy when they started out with just some loops in the background and two keyboard players, but has grown by leaps and bounds in the last couple years.
Heidi Anne-Noel

Horny? Los Angeles (Really Great Books): There are restaurant guides, shopping guides, hotel guidesbut until now, there hasn't been a really good compendium of strip clubs, lingerie shops, sex toy outlets, hotels, nude beaches and pick-up joints. At least not one that was sent to me in the mail for free. Horny? Los Angeles offers reviews and descriptions of the most carnal and lustful places in the city. And it does so in a straightforward, non-blushing manner that makes you feel like getting dirty—without feeling dirty while reading it. New York, San Francisco, Chicago and Las Vegas editions are promised. Now get out there and hump something. Peter Pants

So Fresh, So Clean: It has been nothing but cold on the West Coast. Relatively, of course. Look for overnight lows in the upper 40s and highs in the mid-60s. Saturday will be partly cloudy, but Sunday will see a chance of morning showers. And with reports of El Nino conditions forming in the Pacific Ocean, it might be something to get used to. Back East, it will be sunny and warmrelatively, of course. Highs in the low 50s and lows in the upper 30s/low 40s. What a difference 10 degrees can make.
David Simutis, Senior Meteorology Correspondent

We'll miss those smoke-filled rooms. (5/10a)
Some guys have all the luck. (5/10a)
Big ups for the mogul previously known as Big Jon (5/10a)
Our resident redhead praises girl in red. (5/10a)
Alan Jackson brings back hard country. (5/10a)
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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