How can you not love anyone who says: “I was licking jelly off of my boyfriend's penis and all of a sudden I'm thinking, ‘Oh my God, I'm turning into my mother!’”?


If It's the First Sunday in February, It Must be Time for XLI
1. Super Bowl XLI:
Sure, I know all the so-called experts like the 7-point-favorite Colts, mostly for two main reasons. One being the seeming mismatch between Indy QB Peyton Manning and the Bears’ much-maligned signal caller Rex Grossman; the other the season-long domination of the AFC over the NFC. Set aside those factors and this is a pretty even match-up. Both have multi-pronged, effective running attacks, offenses with quick-strike capabilities and capable special teams. The difference is in the defenses. The Colts suffered from being unable to stop the run for most of the year before they righted themselves in the postseason, while the Bears started off like they were the direct descendants of their last Super Bowl champs, only to get hit with a series of injuries which brought on a midseason slump. Mike Ditka’s ’85 team featured a typically fearsome middle linebacker in Mike Singletary, that year’s version of Brian Urlacher, and MVP of their championship slaughter of the Patriots, Richard Dent. I believe the Bears’ D can put enough pressure on Manning to rattle him and force a few turnovers, and I’m thinking speedy return specialist Devin Hester will make a big, game-turning play. It’ll be close and not particularly high-scoring, so take the under-49 and the points. Let's say Bears 24, Colts 21 in a rare Super Bowl thriller that’ll, for once, be more interesting than the commercials.

2. The Shins, Wincing the Night Away (Sub Pop)/Live at Amoeba Records, Hollywood:
It’s anybody’s guess what the real Natalie Portman thinks about The Shins, but when her character in Garden State earnestly offers the Xanax-addled alienated hero played by Zach Braff her headphones with the promise the band would change his life, an entire Why? Generation bought it from the first strains of “New Slang,” which the band eventually sold to McDonald’s for a TV spot. This Albuquerque-transplanted-to-Portland band, marked by lead singer/songwriter James Mercer's David Lynchian flights of surrealism, is the great indie hope, and they deliver with a third album that works the old-fashioned way by expanding and reaching past the boundaries of their first two. It’s a dreamlike effort filled with lyrical flights of fancy that sprawl across the songs like the words do the pages of the CD booklet... all anxiety, neuroses and anomie masked with a ’60s-meets-’80s love of shimmering psychedelic fizz-pop, part Byrds, part R.E.M./Smiths, part Jesus & Mary Chain. “Sleeping Lessons” begins with a repeating keyboard sample but opens up with a minor-chord intensity that recalls their State mates Coldplay in its raw emotion. First single “Phantom Limb” is supposedly about a pair of young lesbians dreaming of escaping small-town attitudes, but you wouldn’t necessarily know that from the lyrics, with Mercer’s soaring falsetto and melodic hooks “stepping over what now towers to the sky with no connection,” a post-9/11 reference that works on a number of levels. The electro-popping “Red Rabbits” opens up with delicate synths gurgling like Suicide’s “Cherie,” an Alice in Wonderland tale that seems to connect to the pain of the creative process as it enters Beach Boys Wild Honey territory: “In a vacuum you are charged to record this/So you won’t make it easy on me/I can’t go into this no more/It puts too many thorns in my mind.” Live, at an impressively jam-packed free instore at Amoeba, the band got off to a halting start, unable to synch up the opening sample from “Sleeping Lessons,” but soon enough found their groove, the sound fleshed out thanks to the addition of new member Eric Johnson on guitars and keyboards. Don’t know why, but I kept flashing on The Feelies, the band’s miniaturist, ship-in-a-bottle precision giving way to impressive, landlocked hooks. And if there was any doubt The Shins can find their way from cult promise to full-fledged crossover success, their ability to make the not-so-little girls understand could just make them the hipsters’ version of Maroon 5. It is all about the songs, stupid.

3. Jerry Heller with Gil Reavill, Ruthless: A Memoir (Simon Spotlight Entertainment): The co-founder of legendary West Coast gangsta rap label Ruthless Records with Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, whom he calls his adopted son, started out as a booking agent specializing in rock in ’60s Hollywood. These days, he’s probably remembered more as the subject of Ice Cube’s anti-Semitic rant in “No Vaseline”: “’Cause you let a Jew break up my crew… Get rid of that Devil real simple, put a bullet in his temple.” When he started out, Heller admits the music biz was one nonstop party at L.A. music biz hangouts like Martoni’s, where the waiter would deliver a packet of coke underneath your entrée plate and charge the whole thing to your company expense account. Back then, Heller was the booking agent for superstar acts like Elton John, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Creedence Clearwater and Van Morrison, experiencing such epiphanies as the ’67 Monterey Pop Festival and Elton’s legendary 1970 U.S. debut, a six-night stand at L.A.’s Troubadour. He intersperses an account of the early days of N.W.A., and doesn’t spare the bile for such perceived interlopers as bad guy Suge Knight, who spirited away the label’s meal ticket Andre “Dr. Dre” Young, and Bryan Turner, who convinced Cube to sign to his Priority Records as a solo artist. Heller trains the spotlight on the unsung Eazy-E, whom he describes as the “conceptual genius” behind the groundbreaking group he dubs the “Black Beatles,” describing how the band broke, which seems like a lifetime ago, when the biz could still move records out of the trunks of cars at South Bay swap meets. There are similar great stories of working under Lew Wasserman’s notorious mob guy Sidney Korchak at Associated Booking, breaking up a fight in the Troubadour alleyway between Albert Grossman and David Geffen over Laura Nyro’s publishing, hiring a young eager beaver out of Illinois named Irving Azoff for his first industry gig and entertaining Charles Manson and his followers in the living room of the Benedict Canyon house he bought from Terry Melcher. Jerry’s memoirs evoke the music industry of another time and place, where anything seemed possible, and his infectious enthusiasm carries the narrative, even if he glosses over more unpleasant events, like his eventual split from Eazy-E during the rapper’s year-long bout with AIDS that ended in his untimely death at the age of 35. In the end, Heller did things his way, and left a pretty impressive legacy in the process.

4. Roger Angell on Baseball: Finally got around to reading the New Yorker correspondent’s recap of last year’s baseball playoffs (thanks, Bud), leaving no question that he’s the preeminent writer on the sport working today. Spinning the twists and turns into a dense narrative worthy of a Russian novel, Angell talks about being in the city for the rare winning seasons of both the Yankees and Mets: “Following baseball in New York this summer was like being in a bar where two enormous and tumultuous conversations were going on side by side.” His description of the see-saw National League Championship between the Mets and the underdog Cards includes this description of Endy Chavez’s remarkable over-the-wall catch, which temporarily delayed the inevitable: “Chavez’s run-up—three or four loping strides and then a short mini-step before the launch—made him look like an Olympic high-jump finalist. His outstretched right arm bends and droops at the apex, and the ball, flashing into view, is picked off like a canapé.” Finally, he re-lives the heartbreaking bottom of the ninth, as the Mets load the bases only to have Card reliever Adam Wainwright’s drop-dead curve “repeatedly plummet past Beltran’s gaze like a bat in an elevator shaft.” He re-constructs an at-bat earlier that inning by lead-off man Jose Reyes “[whose] shot to right center… [now catches] a fraction more of the ball with his slashing bat, and the ball, this time taking a course that carries it a yard or two more toward right and lands it there, in for a double. Noises rise, the score is tied, with one out, and Lo Duca is just coming up.” After an observation like that, I’m jonesing for pitchers and catchers to report to Florida for spring training. Two weeks and counting....

5. Sarah Silverman: Jesus Is Magic: Sexy and funny aren’t often heard in connection with female comics, but Jimmy Kimmel’s much-better half is the exception. Think of an even more foul-mouthed Fran Drescher crossed with the in-your-face sass of Sandra Bernhard, except hetero, and you begin to get the idea. This Liam Lynch-directed film of her stand-up act is buttressed by some hilarious music videos (check out “Give the Jew Girl Toys,” a bonus feature in which our star hogties Santa, wonders if his last name is German and flashes him a “Heil Hitler”) and a terrific prologue with her real-life sister Laura and comic Brian Posehn, which bodes well for her upcoming Comedy Central series that features both. Wearing a belly shirt and constantly flicking her shiny dark hair, Silverman’s observations on race and hypocrisy (“I don’t care if you think I’m racist… I only care if you think I’m thin”) rival Lenny Bruce in their combination of faux little-girl innocence and grown-up wise-girl snark. Not afraid to tackle taboo subjects like the Holocaust, oral sex and AIDS—not necessarily in that order—Silverman is the freshest female face in comedy in a long while, and it’s going to be a kick to watch where she goes. How can you not love anyone who says: “I was licking jelly off of my boyfriend's penis and all of a sudden I'm thinking, ‘Oh my God, I'm turning into my mother!’”? Just a nice hamishe Jewish girl with a filthy mind, and what could be better than that?

6. Incident at Loch Ness: Happened to catch this 2004 feature one evening while channel surfing and it caught my eye. Purportedly a “making of” movie about director Werner Herzog filming a documentary on the Loch Ness Monster in Scotland, writer/actor/ producer Zak Penn’s (X-Men: The Last Stand, Fantastic Four, Behind Enemy Lines) directorial debut takes a while to reveal what it’s up to, but the result is a funhouse mirror, equal parts Spinal Tap mockumentary, fake real Blair Witch Project/Open Water horror story and Herzog movie parody. The director himself comes across with a straight-faced, tongue-in-cheek jibe at his own rep as an eccentric, as Penn goads Herzog about such oft-told legends as putting a gun to Klaus Kinski’s head in Aguirre: Wrath of God and dragging a riverboat across the Amazon in Fitzcarraldo. Like many of the German director’s films, this one explores man’s uneasy fascination with nature, as in Grizzly Man, and the dangers of juggling fiction and reality while trying to harness both to create art. A rib-tickling satire of the filmmaking process, Incident at Loch Ness crosses the line between fact and fantasy, just as its mystical, fog-shrouded subject has for centuries.

7. Lester Bangs on the Ramones: The late rock critic was at his best in this Dec. 1976 Creem “Rock-a-Rama” capsule review of the band’s first album in which he recounts attending a Twins/Rangers baseball game in Minneapolis with Blue Oyster Cult’s Allen Lanier: “I just kept drinking beer, and just happened to have brought along my trusty cassette deck, which I kept turning on, blasting out with the Ramones, whom I discovered were perfect baseball cheering music; ‘Eye! Oh! Let’s go!’ Even the assiduously scorekeeping little kid in front of us was getting off on it…” Little did Lester know, but that refrain would one day be ubiquitous on baseball and football stadium PA systems everywhere, along with hockey and basketball arenas. Not to mention the band’s music being used to hawk everything from soft drinks to cellular phones.

8. The Stooges, “My Idea of Fun”: The first single from the band’s upcoming Virgin reunion album, The Weirdness, has all the earmarks of a classic—great sturm und drang maelstrom of undertone thrash courtesy of the Asheton brothers, guitarist Ron and drummer Scott, along with longtime collaborator Mike Watt on bass, punctuated by a classic Iggy “Search and Destroy” rant: “My idea of fun… is killing everyone.” The Stooges once again failed to make the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year, but hopefully this new release will remind people of the original line-up’s raw power. The track can be streamed on the band’s new MySpace page here, which will prove that there’s more to the Ig than those “Lust for Life” Royal Caribbean Cruise Line spots.

9. Black Dahlia: Whatever happened to Brian De Palma? This attempt at a ’40s-style film noir about the notorious murder of starlet Elizabeth Short, based on the acclaimed novel by James Ellroy, tries to be a version of Chinatown and L.A. Confidential, but falls flat on its face. There are, of course, at least two of the kind of elaborate Hitchcockian set pieces De Palma has become known for, one a glorious aerial tracking shot that captures the moment Short’s body is discovered in a grassy field by a passer-by, the other a slow-mo stairway murder that recalls Dressed to Kill. In between, though, is leaden dialogue that isn’t even bad enough to work on a camp level, with amazingly desultory performances from the way-too-callow Josh Hartnett, a puzzlingly hyped-up Aaron Eckhart, a woefully lame femme fatale in Scarlett Johansson and Hilary Swank’s surprisingly limp bad girl. The screenplay, by Josh Friedman (War of the Worlds), makes no sense, and the factional denouement leaves you scratching your head… and not in a good way. This auteurist has grown up appreciating aging directors’ latter work, but this mess does not augur well for De Palma’s ability to attract a Hollywood-sized budget in the future, unless he’s willing to do a Scarface sequel, that is.

10. Gripes of the Week: Not only do we have an extra week to wait for the Super Bowl, but we first have to sit through some eight hours of programming on Sunday just to get to kickoff… Don’t know about you, but it kinda ruins it for me that the guy Jack Bauer must defeat to save the world, his evil brother Grae Bauer, played by veteran actor Paul McCrane of E.R. and Fame the movie renown, is a dead ringer for Bob Lefsetz… Ever notice how the more powerful someone is in the corporate hierarchy, the more blatant is the disregard for grammar, spelling and coherence in their e-mails?… I’m kinda tired of people asking me to be their MySpace friends… I sure wish facelifts were covered by my health plan… I can just feel the Democrats self-destructing as Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards wage an internecine battle for the nomination. Can’t we all just get along long enough to beat the GOP in ’08? —Roy Trakin

Friday, Feb 2nd
Clippers @ Celtics (Prime Ticket): First game of a seven-game road trip for the Clips, who have won six of seven and three in a row on the road. On the other hand, the Celtics have lost 13 in a row. This is a dangerous game for the Clips because the Celtics will be playing desperate and for pride.

Slayer w/Unearth @ Bricktown Events Center, Oklahoma City

Jack's Mannequin w/Head Automatica @ Soma, San Diego

Victoria Williams @ The El Rey, L.A.

God Forbid w/Goatwhore @ Masquerade, Atlanta

Bastard Wino’s @ Fender Ave. Bar & Grill, Fullerton, CA

Goldenstate @ the Viper Room on Sunset

Jaguares @ House of Blues San Diego: One of the biggest Hispanic rock bands in the world hits the 619.

Saturday, Feb 3rd
Tutankhamen and the Golden Age of the Pharaohs: @ The Franklin Institute in Philly. From 1976-79, the Treasures of Tutankhamen exhibit toured the United States, attracting more than 8 million visitors and inventing the phenomenon of the blockbuster museum show. In a highly publicized return visit, a larger selection of items from the famed pharaoh's fabulous tomb goes on a 27-month U.S. tour, introducing a whole new generation to the golden treasures of Egypt's Valley of the Kings. Wow, that sounds amazing! But from what I hear, Tut doesn’t make an appearance, reportedly because he is no longer allowed to leave Egypt.

Pennywise with the Circle Jerks, IGNITE and 2 Cents @ House of Blues Las Vegas

Paul Weller @ Wiltern, l.A.

Redd Kross @ the Double Door, Chicago

Sunday, Feb 4th

Clippers @ Toronto Raptors (Prime Ticket): As a diehard fan, ill probably get up at 9 to watch the Clips battle a tough Raptors team. Toronto beat the Clips earlier this season with half their team hurt, but now they’re healthy and streaking. Nonetheless, this will be a tough test.

Super Bowl XLI from Miami: Bears vs. Colts on CBS: The key to this game will be Rex Grossman against Bob Sanders and the Colts defense.

Cradle of Filth w/69 Eyes @ House of Blues, Chicago

The Blow @ Echo, L.A.

Because I Said So
Starring: Diane Keaton, Mandy Moore, Piper Perabo, Tom Everett Scott, Neil Hopkins, Lauren Graham
Keaton and Moore star as a mother and daughter, with the former desperate to find the right man for the latter to ensure she doesn't make the same mistakes her mother did.
Thoughts: This is your typical chick flick, and something tells me I will be getting dragged to see this after forcing my fiancée to see Alpha Dog.

: Tim Allen, David Cross, Tate Donovan, Jeff Garlin, Sarah Silverman, Harry Shearer
Synopsis: Actress Annabelle Gurwitch was fired by Woody Allen from a play he was directing, but Annabelle decided to turn lemons into lemonade by asking her famous comedian friends to share their best firing stories on camera.
Thoughts: Haven’t heard much about this movi,e but it could be funny.

A new year has begun, and that means all the bad movies start coming out. Rarely do we get a good movie until at least March. My recommendation is to review my top movies of the year below and check out the ones you have yet to see.

V for Vendetta
This is my favorite movie of the year, 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.

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.

The Last King of Scotland:
All I can say about this one is Forrest Whitaker is unbelievable. I believe he will win for best actor. He is truly one of the most underrated actors of our time.

Happy Feet:
Sheer brilliance. More than just an animated movie about penguins, it has real-life political views and it is definitely a movie the whole family can enjoy. The music is awesome, and the dancing is sensational, thanks to Savion Glover.

Notes on a Scandal: Really good and really intense, and both Kate Blanchett and Dame Judi Dench are amazing.

Blood Diamond:
Yes, it’s extremely violent and gory, but well worth seeing nonetheless. Plus, Jennifer Connelly is so beautiful.

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.

Casino Royale:
One of the best Bond movies I’ve ever seen.

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 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.