With OG Cali style in commercial and artistic decline, The Game succeeds in putting his hometown Compton back on the rap map on the year’s best old-school hip-hop album.


Sure, It’s Great Not to Have to Endure That Late-Autumn Chill, but 97 in November Is a Bit Much. Maybe the Dems Can Reverse Global Warming.

1. Little Children: In the Bedroom director Todd Field’s adaptation of Election author Tom Perrota’s black comic novel is basically Desperate Housewives meets Weeds on steroids, a searing look at how suburban hypocrisy turns family values on their head, complete with a matter-of-fact narration that makes the entire thing come off like a post-modern fairy tale. The Oscar-worthy Kate Winslet and Phantom of the Opera’s Patrick Wilson undertake a steamy extramarital affair against the backdrop of a town in panic over the return of a hapless sexual offender, played by original Bad News Bear delinquent Jackie Earle Haley in a wrenching performance as a man-child smothered in the twisted maternal love of an equally amazing Phyllis Somerville. The film puts the relationship between parents and their kids under a harsh microscope, with one of the most unsentimental views of childhood you'll ever see in an American film, comparing the doting love of Jennifer Connelly for her son, whose presence in the conjugal bed chases her husband into an affair, with the heartbreaking concern of Somerville for her troubled, though seemingly harmless, child. The tension throughout is unrelenting, leading to an inevitable climax that would be unbearably depressing if it weren’t for the glimmer of humanity offered by the unexpected kindness of the previously vitriolic neighborhood vigilante played by Noah Emmerich and the sudden coming-to-their-senses of the lead characters. The film is probably the most savage critique of the bourgeois family since American Beauty, though the bitter humor does not come at the expense of its characters, but rather reaches deep down to show that, like Renoir's Rules of the Game, everyone has their reasons. Little Children is a certain Oscar contender as one of the most thought-provoking American movies of the year. —Roy Trakin

2. The Who at the Hollywood Bowl: The Who have always been at their best when they have something to prove, like the last time they were at this venue four years ago, just days after the death of John Entwistle. This time around, Townshend and Daltrey came in determined to integrate the songs from Endless Wire, their first new studio album in 24 years, into the set, and while the crowd still predictably perked up over the oldies, tracks like “Fragments,” with its “Baba O’Riley” synth intro, “We Got a Hit” and “Mirror Door,” the tribute to their now-deceased musical influences (although Doris Day is still very much alive and well), fit seamlessly. It wasn’t until the late-set trilogy of the anti-clerical acoustic rendition of “A Man in a Purple Dress,” the Stockholm syndrome tale of falling in love with a suicide bomber, “Black Widow’s Eyes,” and “Mike Post Theme,” Townshend’s tongue-in-cheek tribute to their CSI visibility, that the audience fully came alive to the just-released material. Even seeming throwaways like “Eminence Front” and “Cry if You Want,” both from their last previous album, 1982’s It’s Hard, along with “You Better, You Bet,” came off as overlooked, underappreciated gems. And while the band lacked the unpredictable, careening dynamism provided by the deceased rhythm section of Entwistle and the irreplaceable Keith Moon, Zak Starkey (son of Ringo) is the best drummer they’ve had since then, while bassist Pino Palladino and longtime collaborator (and Pete’s brother) Simon Townshend are more than up to the task of filling out the band’s sound. In the end, though, this edition of the group is about Daltrey, still twirling the mic and hitting the high notes, and the irrepressible Townshend, windmilling and attacking his Fender, still a man possessed after all these years. Like Roger Waters’ recent show at the Bowl, The Who placed the performance within the context of coming of age in a postwar Britain filled with possibility, celebrating their survival from material need and a constant blitzkrieg to create one of their own. It’s an “Amazing Journey,” all right, and when the show concludes with Roger and Pete alone onstage singing “Tea & Theatre,” their ode to what they’ve lost and what they still have, it’s an enormously affecting climax. “All of us sad/All of us free/Before we walk from the stage/Two of us/Will you have some tea/At the theater with me?” —RT

3. The Game, Doctor’s Advocate (Geffen): Speaking of something to prove, the self-declared muthafuckin’ messiah of west coast gangsta rap, Jayceon Terell Taylor, is back, walking the street in his All-Stars, a major chip on his shoulder, puffing his California sticky green chronic, and ready to take over as heir to the Aftermath throne with the follow-up to his 5 million-selling debut, The Documentary. Of course, he has his work cut out for him this time, after feuding with his one-time benefactor 50 Cent and even Dr. Dre—the title is a nod to the love-hate relationship he has with the latter as he notes several times the absence of the famed producer on the album. And even though The Game is on his own this time, he’s still got plenty of help. Guest producers like will.i.am (“Compton”), Reefa and D Roc ("It's Okay [One Blood]),” Scott Storch (“Let’s Ride,” “Too Much”), Kanye West (“Would Get Far”) and Swizz Beatz (“Scream on Em”) make sure that Dre’s influence—primarily those ’80s synth funk-disco beats—is still present, because The Game, unlike many of his peers, continues to show his appreciation for hip-hop history and those who came before him. Freely acknowledging the influence of the good Doc in the nine-minute-plus, gospel-tinged closer “Why You Hate the Game” (“Dre took my training wheels off”), he’s also intent on showing off his own impressive skills and world-class flow (“The Game ain’t over/This is the beginning of my career”). And while he’s still got beefs with real and imagined haters who try to keep him down, The Game ends up offering a tentative olive branch to his chief nemesis: “Makes me want to call 50/And let him know what’s on my mind/But I just hold back/Cause we ain’t beefing like that/He ain’t Big and I ain’t Pac/And we just eating off rap.” With OG Cali style in commercial and artistic decline, The Game succeeds in putting his hometown Compton back on the rap map on the year’s best old-school hip-hop album. —RT

4. Lady Sovereign, Public Warning (Def Jam/IDJ): Twenty-year-old London native Louise Amanda Harman is the current great, white hip-hop hope, just the latest example of the way the British can transform a native African-American pop musical form like blues, soul or rap by twisting it into their own form of expression. A cross between dance-hall toasting, rap boasting and X-Ray Spex “Oh Bondage, Up Yours” punk panache, Lady Sov is reminiscent of The StreetsMike Skinner, exporting the genre across the pond by adding specific details and colloquial references on songs like “9 to 5,” where she complains, “Whoops I’m being rude/Where’s my Red Bull and my sandwich, I need food” or on the synth-driven “Love Me or Hate Me” (the album includes a special bonus remix featuring Missy Elliott) with the refrain, “If you love me then thank you/If you hate me, then fuck you,” even though her pronunciation of “thank” doesn’t sound much different from “fuck.” Alternately cheeky (in “Public Warning,” she boasts, “I’m riding here on this beat/Coz I don’t give a monkey’s what you think about me”), self-deprecating (“I ain’t got the biggest breast-ises/But I write all the bestest hits”), proud (“So I can’t dance and I really can’t sing/I can only do one thing and that’s be Lady Sovereign”) and revelatory (“We ain’t all posh like the queen, we ain’t all squeaky clean”), teen U.K. newcomers like Sov, along with Lily Allen, offer an alternative role model for young women that thankfully veers from tabloid-fueled anorexic sex kittens like Paris Hilton or Britney Spears, which can’t be bad. As the Lady herself puts it, “Make way for the S-O-V.” —RT

The Queen: In another veddy Brit tale, Helen Mirren’s performance as the stoic, but nonetheless slyly domineering Queen Elizabeth II is a shoo-in for an Academy Award in this riveting backroom speculation about how the Monarchy and newly elected Prime Minister Tony Blair, a cheeky, toothy turn by Rowan Atkinson look-alike Michael Sheen, dealt with the political hot potato created by the sudden 1997 death of Princess Diana. Seamlessly interpolating actual newsreel footage with recreations, director Stephen Frears’ story pits the HRH (including James Cromwell’s surprisingly bitchy Prince Philip and the great Sylvia Syms’ seemingly dotty, but deceptively knowing Queen Mum) against the government’s all-too-eager, self-anointed modernizer in a narrative that could have come straight out of Shakespeare by way of Becket. Beneath her world-weary, dismissive glare, Mirren’s Queen insists that the English way is to keep emotions private, even as she becomes increasingly aware of the public’s love of her nemesis Diana, while Sheen’s Blair treads softly as he warns of the political disaster threatened by the Royals’ physical and psychological remoteness to the Princess’ tragic death. What comes across is the devotion to the Royal Family of not only the British people, but also the Prime Minister himself, all too aware that he gains his right to govern from the throne. It’s a thoroughly modern, yet timeless, tale rooted in an ages-old tradition that seems to hang tenuously, with a compelling glimpse of a ruler who has willingly sacrificed her own humanity for her subjects, only to realize they—if not she—need something more. —RT

6. Riley Martin: The inmates have truly taken over the asylum at Howard Stern’s Sirius Satellite Radio Show and it’s all the better for it. While more not for everybody than ever, Stern has elevated his collection of misfits, miscreants, retards and psychopaths to a new level, using their recorded voices for song parodies, phony phone calls and sound effects to almost surreal hilarity. My current favorite is this straight-faced African American UFO expert who is as loony as a bat, with most of the calls on his weekly Hello Earth radio show from Stern listeners mercilessly goofing on him. Paying no attention to the naysayers, while constantly chiding his benefactors’ show as “all flatulence and strippers,” the head-banded Martin, recalling the dulcet purr of WNEW-FM’s legendary late-night disc jockey Rosko, recites his tale with a solemnity as if it’s the back story of Star Wars or Lord of the Rings. His shtick revolves around an encounter with alien visitor O-Qua Tangin Wann and various sub-species offshoots—the Targzissians, the Stagyians, the Dorians, the Skreed, etc.—and how this knowledge, allegedly downloaded directly into his brain by these extraterrestrial beings, will save mankind. It’s all meticulously detailed in Martin's own 593-page manuscript The Coming of Tan, available from his website for $25 plus shipping at www.thecomingoftan.com, where you can also purchase your own individually created Biaviian symbol, hypnosis and lecture DVDs and a CD of songs. A classic scam, of course, made the butt of countless jokes by Howard relentlessly deriding the solemn Riley’s seemingly limitless capacity for “bullshit,” while Martin belligerently argues on-air for more money. It’s all pretty funny, yet another example of the fine line that separates rational thought, psychotic delusion and comedy entertainment in a post-Borat universe. —RT

7. Gwen Stefani, “Wind It Up” (live video): Gotta admit this dance ditty, incorporating samples from the deathless “The Lonely Goatherd” of The Sound of Music fame, didn’t grab at first, but it’s growing on me, especially after seeing this live video here, which incorporates a musical theatre setting straight out of The Nutcracker Suite just in time for the holidays. Watching Stefani strut around onstage like a cheerleader made me realize she has completely taken over the role of pop Marilyn Monroe blonde of the moment from Madonna herself, as well as wannabes like Britney Spears, Hilary Duff and Jessica Simpson. And she’s done it without pandering sexually to the audience, either, especially her younger, more impressionable fans. And who knew Rodgers & Hammerstein could pen such a seductive dancefloor hook, anyway? What’s next? A hip-hop track based on “If I Were A Rich Man”? Oh, right. —RT

8. When Life Was in Black & White: If you’re a fellow baby boomer like me, who basically cut his teeth on pop culture with Disney’s The Davy Crockett Show (the first pop artifact I can remember owning was a coonskin cap with the tail in the back), you can relate to this site, a glorious throwback to the Golden Age of TV, with the themes to The Howdy Doody Show, Leave It to Beaver, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Rawhide, Dragnet, 77 Sunset Strip, Father Knows Best, Rawhide, Perry Mason, Twilight Zone, Outer Limits and more interspersed with images from the shows and vintage commercials for Brylcreem (“A little dab will do ya,” anyone?) and Cracker Jacks. If you were there, these sound bites will spark instant recognition, a nostalgic reminder of a far more innocent, optimistic time. —RT

9. The Well (6255 Sunset Blvd.): This major find, discretely located like a hidden-away speakeasy on the ground floor of the House of Blues building where HITS has its offices is our own neighborhood version of Cheers. The bartenders are adorable and nice, the happy hour drinks from 5-9 p.m. run no more than $5 apiece for a Bloody Matador or a "Rhumba" Punch and the bar menu, featuring an assortment of quesadillas and finger food, is damn fine, too. The jukebox offers an eclectic mix of ‘60s classic rock, hip-hop and post-punk, with the Rolling Stones, the Doors and Buckcherry overheard during one set. It’s one room, dimly lit so everyone looks good, with tucked-away corners perfect for that après-work affair you’re carrying on with your officemate. —RT

10. Gripe of the Week: It’s not just the fact that gas prices began rising the day after the elections, but driving a car here in California has become almost prohibitively expensive. Back when I was living in New York City in the ‘80s, I never dreamed of owning one automoible, let alone the four parked outside my house, as I just bought a 2005 Corolla in cherry condition, with only 24k on the odometer, for my 16-year-old daughter. Of course, that leaves me driving the 1997 Isuzu Rodeo with 114k miles, but I don’t mind. Really. The $200 in monthly payments is a drop in the bucket, though, compared to the car insurance, which now amounts to a staggering $6,000 a year for the four of us, or a whopping $500 a month. Considering that I’ve made a claim on that insurance maybe once, if at all, in the past 20 years, it strikes me as an incredible scam on an increasingly beleaguered middle class, who can’t afford to go without it, even if it wasn’t legally required. No wonder Warren Buffet is so stinking rich. Someone get me an actuarial table. —RT

Friday, Nov. 10th
Brooks & Dunn w/ Sugarland and Jack Ingram @ Hifi Buys Amphitheatre, Atlanta

Black Label Society @ Congress Theater in Chicago.

Lyfe Jennings w/ Shareefa @ House of Blues Anaheim.

Lupe Fiasco @ Key Club.

Saturday, Nov. 11th
Tennessee @ Arkansas on ESPN 2: A big time SEC showdown between the suddenly dominant Razorbacks and the recently stumbling Vols. Arkansas has won eight straight since losing to USC and is undefeated in conference play, while Tennessee is coming off a dispiriting loss at home to LSU.

Nintendo Fusion Tour w/ Hawthorne Heights, Relient K, Emery, Plain White T’s and The Sleeping @ Congress Theater in Chicago

Oregon @ USC on FSN: This will be a Pac 10 shootout. USC still has hopes of winning the conference; the Ducks don’t care and will be looking to upset the Trojans.

MTV2 $2 Bill Concert Series Presents 30 Seconds to Mars @ The Ridglea Theater, Forth Worth

Madina Lake @ CC Charlie's, Vineland, NJ

Stoney Curtis Band @ the Sand Dollar - Las Vegas, NV

Sunday, Nov. 12th
Hornets vs. Clippers @ Staples Center. Bring the family out to this afternoon game. This will defitnetly be another test for the Clips as they battle a really good, young Hornets team that may have the best point guard in the league. Second-year star Chris Paul is a handful for any team, and the Clips will have to bring their A game to win this one against the last remaining undefeated team in the NBA.

Sunday Night Football: Bears vs Giants on NBC: A week ago this match-up appeared to have the makings of a war; now it’s more a battle of the wounded, as both teams have key injuries and will be limping into this one. Expect some really good defense in this game.

Atreyu @ the Avalon in Utah.

Honeytribe featuring Devon Allman @ The Intersection, Grand Rapids, MI

Sparta @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney), Anaheim

Switchfoot @ The Revolution, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Lostprophets w/ Take the Crown @ The Roxy

Say Anything @ Sokol Underground, Omaha

IV Thieves @ Lambi, Montreal

Stranger Than Fiction
Will Ferrell, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal
An IRS agent hears a mysterious voice narrating his entire life, a voice that seems to know his thoughts and feelings, as well as when and how he'll die. It turns out that the voice is that of an author writing a book in which the agent is a character.
You know, I am up in the air on this one; it’s either gonna be really good or a complete stinker. I’m hoping that it at least makes me laugh a little bit.

A Good Year
Starring: Russell Crowe, Albert Finney, Marion Cotillard, Freddie Highmore, Archie Panjabi, Richard Coyle
Synopsis: London-based investment banker Max Skinner plans to sell a small vineyard he inherits from his uncle. But Max encounters a beautiful California woman who also lays claim to the property, and he begins to consider whether or not he can really sell the place.
Thoughts: Russell Crowe usually makes good films, but I havent heard anything about this one, which makes me wonder how good it’s going to be, if at all.

The Lupe Fiasco CD is a must-have if you’re a hip-hop fan—it’s a nearly flawless debut for the Chicago-based rapper. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but as soon as I popped the disc in the car, I found myself hypnotized.

John Legend’s sophomore album, Once Again, is absolutely brilliant. It’s definitely more adult than the big-selling 2005 debut, as Legend solidifies himself as one of the best R&B singers around. A must-have for R&B fans, young or old.

V for Vendetta:
This is my favorite movie of the year so far, for many reasons. It's more than just a comic book adapted for the big screen; it’s a movie that makes a big political statement that we can all relate to these days. Definitely a movie that was slept on, and I advise everyone to check it out if you haven't yet.

The Last King of Scotland: All I can say about this one is Forrest Whitaker is unbelievable, and although there are still plenty of good movies to come out, I hope Forrest wins for this role. He is truly one of the most underrated actors of our time.

Babel: This may be the most depressing movie I have ever seen, but also maybe one of the best. It’s simply breathtaking and almost leaves you speechless when it ends. I must warn you that this film isn’t easy to watch, but it’s definitely worth seeing.

Borat: All I have to say is, “very niiiiiiiiice, I like it.” This is by far the funniest movie of the year.

World Trade Center: Another important movie that I urge people to see. I was in tears, and although a lot of it is hard to watch, it’s quite an astonishing story.

The Prestige: I was a fan of The Illusionist until I saw this one. The twists in this movie are so much better executed, and the acting is amazing. I mean, you can’t go wrong with a cast of Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale, Scarlett and Michael Cain.

Little Children:
This movie is incredible in so many ways, including the unique way it was executed. Hard to describe, it’s one of those movies that just leaves you breathless.

The Illusionist: Giamatti and Norton are truly brilliant.

X-Men III: The Last Stand: If this is the last one, it certainly satisfied my appetite. It had it all, including some incredible action sequences.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Simply awesome! Johnny Depp is brilliant, Bill Nighy is creepy, Keira Knightley is sexy and it has great special effects and nonstop action.

Mission Impossible III: OK, people are getting sick and tired of Tom Cruise, but if you can just get past him, this movie is actually really good. A lot of people are missing out because they’re so turned off by the star’s off-screen antics.

An Inconvenient Truth: The most important movie of the year. A must-see.

The Devil Wears Prada: Makes my list because Meryl Streep is truly brilliant, and if you haven’t seen it, or are on the edge about seeing it, go for her performance, if for nothing else.

Big news from the Spot. (10/15a)
This is getting ridiculous (10/14a)
It all adds up. (10/13a)
(20 FOR 16)
Beer and Glickman collaborate on the Spot. (10/13a)
Your Thanksgiving weekend soundtrack (10/14a)
Adele; Adele Adele?
A... dele?
Adele Adele; Adele.

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