The denials/apologies from MTV, CBS, the NFL, Janet and Justin are in, but if anyone hasn’t realized our entire entertainment economy is fueled by sex and violence, well, maybe you’d like to come out from that rock you’re hiding under.


A Revealing Look at Sex in All Its Various Forms, from Davitt Sigerson’s Steamy New Novel to Thirteen, Bowie, Courtney Love and Bertolucci's New NC-17 Movie
More Nipplegate: Who knew and when did they know it? It’s like the fall of Rome. Give the people "bread and circuses" and it’ll take their mind off the really important things, like an unwinnable war in Iraq, a sputtering economy and a complete vacuum of leadership at the top. But never mind that, as Americans study their TiVo frame-by-frame like it was Zapruder’s footage of the Kennedy assassination. The denials/apologies from MTV, CBS, the NFL, Janet and Justin are in, but if anyone hasn’t realized our entire entertainment economy is fueled by sex and violence, well, maybe you’d like to come out from that rock you’re hiding under.

1. Boob Tube: Cyberspace has taken the place of the water-cooler as the place where the office vox populi congregate to discuss the latest current events. The Janet Jackson Super Bowl controversy took on a life of its own on the web, the only place to see a close-up of the offending mammary and a stop-action pic of Justin bumping and grinding with giant private part added. And, finally, what’s hopefully the last word, wiseacre pundit Corey Levitan’s exclusive interview with the breast itself. (Roy Trakin)

2. Davitt Sigerson, Faithful (Doubleday): No less an eminence than legendary book editor Nan Talese has given the former Polydor/ Chrysalis/Island Records chief’s first novel her personal endorsement. The steamy, sexually explicit story is a kinda boy-meets-girl, boy-effs-girl, boy-marries-girl, boy-impregnates-girl, girl-dumps-boy-for-old-lover, boy-is-left-to-share-child-raising-duties-of-his-infant-daughter-while-continuing-to-have-anal-sex-with-ex-wife tale. The only musical references are the Nick Hornby-style nods to the old R&B and soul songs the London-based lead character, a stock trader, uses to amuse his little girl. There’s also plenty of cross-continental meals recounted in great detail (natch, given Davitt’s impressively expanding waistline) and enough quasi-porn to make Janet Jackson blush. Sigerson used to be a rock journalist and performer before he became a record exec, and certainly has a way with words, but if Talese thinks this is titillating, there are a coupla Internet sites I’d like to direct her to. (RT)

3. Thirteen (Fox Home Video): The harshest part of this controversial film is not seeing the titular teenagers huffing drugs, shoplifting, making out with black guys, slapping each other silly, skipping classes or mutilating themselves with sharp objects. It’s seeing the marvelous Evan Rachel Wood shut out her caring, obviously overtaxed single mom, played by Oscar-nominated Holly Hunter trying desperately to be mother-as-older-sister/friend. Co-star Nikki Reed’s screenplay (co-written with director Catherine Hardwicke) is surprisingly moral and even a bit chaste in that there’s no nudity, and the backdrop seems authentic enough, though my eighth-grade daughter wondered aloud at how these 13-going-on-20-year-olds could be in seventh grade. A cautionary tale for parents wondering what their kids are doing behind closed doors. For the rest of us, it’s a chance to cherish our own kids’ childhood in an era when MTV and the rest of the media force them to grow up all too quickly. (RT)

4. On The Speakers: Creeper Lagoon hasn’t fully realized its potential. Critical and underground faves, they signed to DreamWorks, then splintered after one record, the underrated Take Back the Universe and Give Me Tomorrow. Creeper still exists, but the band’s Ian Sefchick has exited, stepping out with his new band, and continuing down the slackeriffic pop-meets-noise on On the Speakers’ self-titled EP. The songs have soaring hooks, but are covered in a sort of near-lo-fi grime and indie-rock experimentalism. The band hitting the road for a proper tour in March, but are doing three quick shows (including Friday at Spaceland) which should give them a chance to prove that they’re for real. (David Simutis)

5. David Bowie at the Wiltern Theater: After years of resisting churning out his old hits in concert, the Thin White Now-Surgically Enhanced Duke made a triumphant return to the L.A. area on his current jaunt of more intimate venues, abandoning his multiple guises to literally press the flesh with Bowie fans of all ages. And while the concert admittedly lagged during numbers from his last two, Tony Visconti-produced albums, Heathen and Reality, or anything past around '84 or so, enough familiar material and rarely heard faves were sprinkled in to please the rapturous crowd, not to mention the harshest critic. The evening begins with the slowed-down strains of "Rebel Rebel" and ends only after a raucous  encore of "White Light, White Heat," "Five Years," "Suffragette City" and "Ziggy Stardust." In between are such gems as "Be My Wife" and "A New Career in a New Town" from Low; "Life on Mars?" from Hunky Dory and a show-stopping "Under Pressure," with bassist Gail Ann Dorsey handling the Freddie Mercury part. Old hands like keyboardist Mike Garson and Bowie’s answer to Keith Richards/Ron Wood, guitarist Earl Slick, are also on hand to remind us of the glory days. And while Bowie is no longer the rock god he once was, his all-too-human basking in the crowd’s warmth was a welcome sign of a rock star who hasn’t fallen, but is now pleasingly down-to-earth. (RT)

6. The Man Without a Past (Columbia Tri-Star Home Video): Finnish director Aki Kaurismaki is probably best-known as the man who brought the pointy-toed Leningrad Cowboys to pop culture consciousness (they appeared on an MTV Video Music Awards show several years ago). This movie, nominated last year for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, is a minimalist black comedy about a man who gets beaten up at a Helsinki train station on a trip and suffers a complete loss of memory. With the help of a Salvation Army worker he chastely romances and an adopted dog, a hilariously deadpan Markku Peltola builds a new life in a tiny storage space. He smokes hand-rolled cigarettes and huddles next to a jukebox that plays vintage delta blues recordings from the likes of Blind Lemon Jefferson and Finnish surf garage bands. A huge influence on indie filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch (who’s starred in his movies), Kaurismaki enjoys mixing cultures to existential/absurd effect. A film that takes its time, but eventually has a quiet impact, its humanistic, Bresson-like influence can be spotted in such current movies as Thomas McCarthy’s The Station Agent and Terry Zwigoff's Bad Santa. (RT)

7. Courtney Love, America’s Sweetheart (Virgin): The problem here is trying to distinguish between Courtney Love the tabloid queen and Love the rock performer, something the girl with the most cake herself has a hard enough time doing. And while critics have taken a potshot at the raspy nature of her voice, drug-soaked lyrics and self-aggrandizement, isn’t that the point of being a rock star? And if this solo debut is all over the place, Love’s pop melodic sense is way underrated, with the anti-Hollywood epic "Sunset Strip" sporting a chorus that recalls—no kidding—Gordon Lightfoot’s "If You Could Read My Mind." Yeah, Courtney’s a mess alright. For those who enjoy celebrity meltdown, this should satisfy the most prurient interest, but it rocks hard and steady, and Courtney is still arguably the smartest woman in punk-rock..even if her only real competition is Liz Phair. Not a disaster by any means, but a cry for help that’s surprisingly moving. Here’s hoping she hasn’t scared all her fans away with that erratic behavior, because punk-rock needs all the Love it can muster. (RT)

8. Wilshire at the Hotel Cafe: The married pop duo’s residency at this charming Hollywood boîte takes a romantic turn next Wednesday (2/11), as they join Warner/Chappell and BMI in celebrating Valentine’s Day early, with a set full of goodies—including an extra-special rendition of "In Your Arms" from their album, New Universe (Columbia). Showtime is 9 p.m. (Simon Glickman)

9. Eric Hutchinson at the Hotel Café: The singer-songwriter looked at the audience through his floppy gold locks and said, "If I sell a CD tonight, I’m gonna cut this hair." Well, he’d better make an appointment; as soon as I heard that voice and those songs, I had to bum-rush the two cuties who were selling his wares. With supple pipes and an appealingly dry sense of humor, Hutchinson breezed through smart, infectious originals like "Rock and Roll" (from his album, That Could’ve Gone Better) and a wild array of covers, including "Hurts So Good," "Crazy in Love" and "Cry Me a River." He’ll be at the Hotel Cafe, too—on Monday night. (SG)

10. Nik Freitas, Heavy Mellow (Future Farmer): One of those discs that seems to hang out on the desk and find its way into the CD player surprisingly often, this nine-song batch of melody-heavy indie pop, out since November, is Freitas’ second for San Francisco’s Future Farmer Recordings. (Former Thrasher photojournalist Freitas hails from Visalia, CA, as did recently deceased Future Farmer founder/Joaquina singer-guitarist/fellow Thrasher staffer Jeffrey Alan Klindt.) He impressively plays all the instruments himself, save lead guitar courtesy of pal Aaron Estes, but the writing is the standout here: Effortlessly earnest lyrics wind around comfortable tunes that are infused with Lennonesque longing, but are clearly their own animal. "Summer Hearts," "Penny" and "Cheaters" are among the album’s finest moments, but it’s hard to find a bad one. If you had to guess what kind of music a former pro skateboard camera jockey would make, this is probably the last thing you’d come up with—but it’s a pleasant surprise, and one that delivers time and again. As Freitas urges on "Cheaters," "Please feel free to sing along." (Jon O’Hara)

Speaking of shocking displays of sexuality and wardrobe malfunctions, the genius of rock, Pat Benatar, once told us that love is a battlefield. That point was driven home in the poignant video for the song of the same name. Then she and her troop of working girls shimmied their pimp right out of their lives. We all know that Benatar went on to superstardom and still plays stadiums, or not, but the big question is, "What happened to those hookers after being in the video?" They weren’t real call girls, but did any of them have careers after line dancing with Pat? Somebody knows. Email me: [email protected] and remind me that we are strong, and that no one can tell us we’re wrong. (DS)

Ashton Kutcher
and Natalie Cole celebrate birthdays this weekend, and the Big Apple has plenty in store for these characters should they choose to blow out the candles in our fair city. For Ashton, it’s a tossup Friday between OK Go, who set it off at Mercury Lounge (217 E. Houston St.) and Simple Plan, who play Roseland (239 W. 52nd). Simple Plan has a stronger lineup, with Sugarcult, MxPx and Motion City Soundtrack rounding out the bill. On Saturday, Ash must choose between B2K (or what's left of them) who hip-hop at Beacon Theatre (2124 Broadway) and Pretty Girls Make Graves rocking out at Bowery Ballroom (6 Delancy St.)

For Natalie, our weekend surprises include taking in a show by James Brown, who performs at B.B. King’s Blues Club (243 42nd St.) on Friday, and a set from Yolanda Adams, who performs both Saturday and Sunday at the Apollo Theatre (253 W. 125th St.). (Valerie Nome

Barbershop 2: Back in Business (MGM)
Sequel to $75 million grosser about a group of African-American barbers on Chicago’s South Side, as Ice Cube struggles to keep his father’s shop and traditions alive aginst urban developers looking to replace the mom & pop establishments with name-brand chains.
Stars: Ice Cube, Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Queen Latifah, Troy Garity
Director: Kevin Rodney Sullivan
(How Stella Got Her Groove Back)
Thumbs Up: A homegrown franchise, like the titular barbershop, and guaranteed to top next week’s box office list, guaranteed.
Thumbs Down: More a critique of Hollywood that Ice Cube is our real modern-day Frank Capra.
Soundtrack: Star-studded Interscope soundtrack includes Mary J. Blige/Eve, Chingy, The Clipse, G-Unit, Sean Paul, Mobb Deep, Avant w/Keke Wyatt.
Website: www.barbershop2.com/ has everything you wanna know, including a trailer, first video with Mary J. Blige and Eve, info on each of the characters, sweepstakes, soundtraack preview, games, advertising for the DVD of the first film, etc.

Miracle (Walt Disney Pictures)|
Based upon the true story of the U.S. hockey team’s Winter Olympics victory in 1980 against the Russians, copping from announcer Al Michaels’ famous call, "Do you believe in miracles?"
Stars: Kurt Russell as coach Herb Brooks, Patricia Clarkson as his wife, Noah Emmerich as GM Craig Patrick.
Director: Gavin O’Connor
Thumbs Up: Good cast, moving story, huge marketing campaign with NHL banking on a boost for ice hockey as the real-life sport braces for a work stoppage.
Thumbs Down: The only people who care about ice hockey are the 17,000 that attend the games in each pro city.
Soundtrack: Score is by Mark Isham. Is there a soundtrack album?
Website: www.disney.go.com/disneypictures/miracle/home.html has movie information, including story, stills, cast and filmmaker information, production notes, preview and clips, an intro to Hockey 101, games, downloads.

The Dreamers (Fox Searchlight)
Based on the novel (The Holy Innocents), by Gilbert Adair (Love and Death on Long Island), who also wrote the screenplay. An American college student befriends a French brother and sister, who meet for a menage a trois through a shared love of cinema, against the backdrop of the 1968 student riots.
Stars: Michael Pitt, Louis Garrel, Jean-Pierre Kalfon, Jean-Pierre Leaud.
Director: Bernardo Bertolucci
(The Last Emperor, 1900, Last Tango in Paris).
Thumbs Up: First major movie to receive an NC-17 in memory, it looks like it pushes the envelope for movie eroticism.
Thumbs Down: The coming attractions, despite the great musical background, looks kinda like a car commercial.
Soundtrack: Nettwerk Records album features Hendrix’s "Third Stone from the Sun," The Doors, Grateful Dead and Steve Miller Band, as well as Jean Constantin, Edith Piaf, Francoise Hardy, Charles Trenet and Michel Polnareff.
Website: www.foxsearchlight.com/thedreamers/ offers a story synopsis, credits, trailer and the promise of a new website coming soon.

Catch That Kid (20th Century Fox)
A 12-year-old who shares a love of mountain-climbing with her dad, plots to rob a high-tech bank where her mother works as a security chief with two of her friends, to help pay for an operation after he’s paralyzed in an accident on Mount Everest.
Stars: Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Beals, Sam Robards, Michael Des Barres, James LeGros
Director: Bart Freundlich
(The Myth of Fingerprints).
Thumbs Up: Fox looks to create a Spy Kids-type franchise, with plenty of top-notch talent on hand for a genre exercise like this.
Thumbs Down: It’s been done before.
Soundtrack: None.
Website: www.catchthatkid.com lets you view trailer, see plot synopsis, visit download gallery.

There’s nothing like looking forward to Grammy weekend, knowing that temps in Los Angeles will be in the 70s, with lows at night in the upper 40s. Take that NYC. If you happen to be in NYC instead of here in the land of sunshine, have no regrets. After a misterable day of snow, rain and whatever form water falls from the sky in, Saturday will be warmer, with highs almost as warm as Los Angeles’ low temp and lows in the mid-20s. Sunday will be windy and colder, with temps hovering in the mid-20s. Too bad. (DS)

Thanks to Roy Trakin, David Simutis, Simon Glickman, Valerie Nome and Jon O'Hara for a "costume reveal" of this Planner edition.

Lox & bagels is our guess. (10/4a)
Michael and Kyle find a feast of hip-hop to chew on. (10/5a)
She brings a Gryn to Roppo's face, so to speak. (10/4a)
Honoring the life and music of a truth-teller (10/5a)
It was a surprisingly easy "Habit" to break. (10/5a)
New categories! New rules! New WTF!
It's the one you didn't see coming.
"Who took my passports?"
Allow us to apologize in advance.

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