Starting out as a satire of suburban conformity, Weeds touched on any number of issues you just don’t see on network television, especially the relationship between parents and their kids, and how “do what I say, not what I do” has finally outlived its usefulness as a child-rearing philosophy.


College Football's Building to a Climax, the NBA Is Back and Weeds Is Gone Till Next Year
1. The Who, Endless Wire (Universal Republic):
“I fear the future, man,” admits Pete Townshend in “It’s Not Enough” through his longtime mouthpiece Roger Daltrey. “Don’t know where to head now/Give up? Go back?” The Who do neither on their first new studio album since 1982’s It’s Hard, which went out with a whimper rather than a bang. Featuring nine new songs, the 10-song autobiographical “mini-opera” Wire & Glass, and a five-track bonus DVD recorded last summer in Lyon, France, the package is nothing if not ambitious, a flood of new music that both recalls their illustrious past (the familiar “Baba O’Riley” synth noodling that opens “Fragments,” the themes of “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” audience identification and transformation on the emblematic “Mirror Door”), the present (poking fun at the use of their music on TV in “Mike Post Theme”) and a glimpse into the future (Townshend’s whimsical solo turn as the Almighty on “God Speaks of Marty Robbins”). In many ways, this is a work of a mature artist, as Townshend tries to grapple with his own mortality, wondering: “If you don’t hear me, how can I tell you/If you don’t listen, why should I speak/If you’re indifferent, how can I read you/Just ’cos you’re angry don’t assume I’m weak,” exploring the echoes of his “See me /Feel me/Touch me/Heal me” refrain from Tommy. Though it frequently veers off into a Townshend solo album, with Daltrey gamely trying to twist his voice into expressing Pete’s myriad obsessions, the Who have faced up to their biggest challenge—the band’s own mythic legacy. And while it’s no Who’s Next or Quadrophenia, for that matter, Endless Wire continues to explore its auteur’s longstanding self-doubts juxtaposed with the transcendent spiritual liberation of rock & roll. You really can’t ask more from a legend than that. We should be thankful the Who, and Pete, didn’t die before they got old. —Roy Trakin

2. Babel:
The final third of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga’s trilogy, following Amores Perros and 21 Grams, is also the most realized. Ostensibly based on the Biblical tale in which mankind attempts to build a tower and is punished for its hubris with multiple languages and the inability to understand one another, Babel is certainly about the difficulties of communication in a world increasingly melded together by technology, but its strength lies in its ability to transcend words to sear a series of unforgettable images into your mind’s eye: an elderly Mexican woman stumbles across a parched border desert, the frayed red dress she wore for her son’s wedding rippling in the hot wind; a naked, deaf-mute Japanese girl stands on the balcony of a high-rise silhouetted against the glittering neon of the forbidding, futuristic Tokyo skyline; a husband and his wounded wife clench hands on the floor of a Moroccan hut as he silently passes her a bedpan; a young shepherd shoots at a bus below only to see it slow to a stop, confirming he's hit his target. The interrelatedness of modern life and the logical limits of truly understanding one another are the themes here, and Inarritu and Arriaga’s narrative ellipses and editing between the four separate stories mirror such European classics of alienation as Antonioni’s The Passenger or Bertolucci’s film of Paul BowlesThe Sheltering Sky. And while the overlapping story lines recall such disparate efforts as the soap opera-ish Six Degrees or the overly didactic social tract of Crash, Babel avoids both gimmick and pretension by relaying on its stunning visuals and several incredible performances, including a worn-looking Brad Pitt, bags under his eyes and dirt under his nails, as a husband desperately trying to save his wife’s life in a foreign land; the remarkable Rinko Kikuchi in an Oscar-worthy turn as the sexually frustrated deaf-mute who lost her mother to a suicide, and Adriana Barraza as the heartbreakingly faithful nanny, who risks everything to attend her son’s wedding in Mexico, only to be kicked out of the U.S. as an illegal immigrant on her return. As befits its title, Babel takes on any number of hot-button issues confronting modern society—cultural xenophobia, media distortion, sexual anomie, disparity of wealth, fear of the unknown, the closing of borders—and while it may seem to provide no solutions, there is a humanistic impulse that offers forgiveness, even while suggesting God, and the universe, remain indifferent to our plight. —RT

3. The Beastly Bombings or A Terrible Tale of Terrorists Tamed by the Tangles of True Love (at the Steve Allen Theater, 4773 Hollywood Blvd., Friday and Saturday nights at 8 p.m. through Nov. 18): A political cartoon come to life, with a delightful Gilbert & Sullivan-style libretto by Julien Nitzberg and marvelous musical arrangements by veteran Roger Neill, this is a satire with an unabashed pedigree in barbed social critiques such as Dr. Strangelove and Chaplin’s The Great Dictator. The plot is literally torn from today’s headlines, as a pair of skinhead white supremacists (wonderfully played by Jacob Sidney and Timothy McVeigh lookalike Aaron Matijasic) run into two Middle Eastern terrorists (hilarious turns by the sharp-featured Andrew Ableson and doughy Russell Steinberg, creator of lounge lizard act Johnny Fayva) as both prepare to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge, only to break into song and dance together about how they both hate the Jews. The four then land in a New York jail with unabashed druggie ingénues Elyssa and Clarissa (the charmingly Doris Day-like Heather Marie Marsden and Darrin Revitz), the daffy daughters of U.S. President Dodgeson, played by talented opera singer Jesse Merlin as a wildly exaggerated, high-stepping, button-down version of you-know-who. Nitzberg’s dark satire roasts everyone and everything in equal measure, from flip-flopping closeted Chief Executives and their spoiled, partying offspring to a wacky, prejudiced Hasid merchant, a pedophilic, red underwear-clad priest and even a clueless Japanese sub crew, washed ashore 60 years after the end of World War II. With cheeky political incorrectness, an octave-climbing score and rapid-fire, tongue-twisting lyrics, the final result, reminiscent of the recent Studio 60 spoof of G&S, is a raunchy poperetta that is as true to its influences as it is timely in its topicality. Who woulda thought the specter of 9/11 could produce such a fun evening at the theatre? This is one Bomb well worth seeing. —RT

4. Weeds: While I was concerned that all the delightful immorality of this groundbreaking show would end up with everyone getting their just punishment, the season finale turned out to be a guffaw-inducing cliff-hanger ending with a spaghetti western-style showdown in the kitchen of Mary-Louise Parker’s split-level grow house. What started out as a satire of suburban conformity touched on any number of issues you just don’t see on network television, especially the relationship between parents and their kids, and how “do what I say, not what I do” has finally outlived its usefulness as a child-rearing philosophy. What was interesting about the show was how the youngsters showed considerably more smarts and sophistication than their elders, even as they inevitably succumb to the same temptations and concerns. Kudos also to splendid farceurs Elizabeth Perkins and Kevin Nealon, who did some of his best post-SNL work ever here, as well as TV veteran Justin Kirk as the delightfully drug-addled brother-in-law Andy, Zooey Deschanel as the completely looped hippie chick Cat and the kid actors, particularly Hunter Parrish as sullen older brother Silas and young Alexander Gould as wide-eyed, wise-beyond-his-years Shane. Creator Jenji Kohan, whose previous writing credits include episodes of Will & Grace, Boston Common, Gilmore Girls and Mad About You, comes into her own as a full-fledged auteur very much influenced by the likes of David Kelley and Steve Bochco, but a complete original. Can’t wait until it returns next year. With such compelling series as this and Blake MastersBrotherhood, Showtime is no longer HBO’s bitch when it comes to original programming. —RT

5. Lindsey Buckingham, Under the Skin (Reprise): Like Pete Townshend, the Fleetwood Mac leader has been working on his latest for years, and also questioning his own relevancy in a youth-oriented pop world. “What am I doing anyway,” he asks in the album-opening “Not Too Late,” as he tells himself “it’s not too late,” adding, “I’m not a young man but I’m a child in my soul/I feel there’s room for a man who is whole.” This mostly acoustic album highlights his distinctively delicate finger-plucking, particularly on his yearning rendition of Donovan’s “To Try for the Sun” and the tuneful cover of the Stones “I Am Waiting”). Again, this is the work of an adult looking back on his life with some regrets (“Cast Away Dreams,” “Down on Rodeo”) and forward at the legacy he’ll leave behind (“It Was You,” “Someone’s Gotta Change Your Mind”). “Oh I won’t shut us down,” he sings. “No I will stay around/As long as I can.” From a talent as idiosyncratic as Buckingham, that’s welcome news for the future of grown-up pop music. —RT

6. Ethan Suplee:
This veteran of several Kevin Smith films, and a memorable turn as a hillbilly in Cold Mountain, plays Jason Lee’s dim-witted younger brother Randy Hickey with a combination of ignorance and sweet-natured bliss that is irresistible in its abject stupidity. Like the show itself, the performance rides the line between dumb redneck humor and inadvertent left-field cleverness that recalls the Coens’ classic Raising Arizona. Suplee’s earnest naivete provides the Costello counterpoint to Lee’s Abbott, a classic “Who’s on First?” comedy team for this post-absurdist era. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: NBC’s Thursday night block of My Name Is Earl and The Office is by far the funniest, laugh-at-loud hour on network television, with no small thanks to Suplee’s subtle characterization of an idiot savant...minus the savant part. —RT

Tennis, Anyone…? Directed and co-written by Donal Logue, probably best known for his role in the Fox TV series Grounded for Life and the 2000 indie cult film The Tao of Steve, this modest film about a pair of Hollywood B- and quite possibly C-listers who seek redemption on the celebrity tennis circuit has some great angst-y moments of career humiliation that ring pretty true. Co-star and co-writer Kirk Fox is a natural playing a version of himself, hanging on the fringes of show business by his fingernails, but confidently secure in his role as a guru who turns to tennis to provide his hang-loose philosophy of life. Brotherhood’s terrifically creepy Jason Isaacs is marvelous as the equally disconcerting star actor who lords his professional success over the hapless duo and exacerbates it when he beats them on the court at their own game. There are some nifty cameos from such familiar faces as Stephen Dorff, Paul Rudd and Danny Trejo and the film’s naturalistic quality makes it a neo-realist cross between Spinal Tap and Cassavetes. It’s an inside look, for sure, but the breezy camaraderie of real-life pals Logue and Fox makes it just accessible enough for civilians. If you happen across this while browsing the bins at your local video outlet, you could do a lot worse. —RT

8. Barbara Streisand, “Shut the Fuck Up” (MP3): You gotta hand it to Babs, taking a George Bush impersonator out on the road to sing a duet with her during the show. She’s been taking some flack along the way for it, too, getting a drink thrown on her and drawing her share of catcalls. A particularly testy exchange in New York led to some enterprising netizen setting her expletive-laden rant to a back beat as La Barbra challenges a tormentor: “Shut up if you can’t take a joke…Give him his money back.” As one office wag put it: “This is even better than Gwen Stefani’s new single.” Listen to it on The Huffington Post site here and tell me it’s not a dancefloor smash in the making. —RT

9. Pattaya Thai Restaurant (1727 N. Vermont Ave.): There seems to be a Thai eatery every other block in L.A., but you’re literally tossing the dice to find a decent one. This rather nondescript establishment, in a strip mall just north of Hollywood Blvd. at the start of Los Feliz, is the real deal, complete with the requisite aquarium, a disco ball hanging from the ceiling and a stage for karaoke nights. First thing you notice is the orange glow, which also happens to be the color of most of the dishes, including a delectable, sticky mee krob with shrimp and chicken that tastes like candy along with skewered chicken sates glowing like they were exposed to radioactivity. The pad thai noodles with chicken are flavorful, practically melting in your mouth, while the classic BBQ chicken is neither over nor underdone, not too dry, not too greasy. Top it off with some killer Thai ice teas, a dinner for three that comes in under $40 and even I was willing to ignore the “B” health rating in the window. And when you’re finished, you can even take a stroll along quaint Vermont Ave., one of the few city streets in L.A. that is like a New York City neighborhood, with plenty of opportunities for window-shopping and people-watching. —RT

10. Gripe of the Week: There is no more depressing time of the year than the first day of Daylight Savings Time after you set your clock back, ushering in the 4:30 sunset and the onset of a long winter. Of course, it’s nowhere near as bad as back East, when that momentous event heralds the coming of cold weather, but even here in SoCal, you can begin to feel a little bite in the night air. The whole ritual strikes me as superfluous in this day and age, considering it was enacted when farmers needed the extra hour of daylight in the morning to save money on electricity. Seems it’s become rather unnecessary these days, something we do now merely out of habit. I’m not sure why exactly it brings me down, except I tend to equate the end of the year, the falling of the leaves, as symbolic of our own mortality. Of course, the hour we gain now, we give back up again in the spring, just part of life’s unending cycle of death and rebirth, which, come to think of it, is pretty eternal after all. —RT

Friday, Nov. 3rd
The All American Rejects @ the Starland Ballroom in New Jersey.

New Found Glory with special guests The Early November and Cartel @ House of Blues Orlando.

The John Popper Project @ The Roxy. This guy is a genius on the harmonica.

Saturday, Nov. 4th
LSU vs. Tennessee on CBS: This is a big SEC game.

UCLA vs Cal on ABC: The reeling Bruins, coming off of three straight losses, will try to rebound against the Bears, who are looking more and more like the class of the PAC 10. It will be extremely tough to win in Berkeley

4th Annual All Access Magazine.com Music Awards hosted by Sheena Metal @ The Knitting Factory, Hollywood (For more info go to www.allaccessmagazine.com)

Suns vs. Clippers @ Staples Center on NBA TV: The Clippers will look to avenge their season-opening loss to the Suns. This will be a big game for the Clippers, who need to take advantage of the fact that the Suns should be tired after playing Utah Friday night.

Five for Fighting with Gary Jules @ House of Blues on the Sunset Strip

Sunday, Nov. 5th
Broncos @ Steelers on CBS: Denver’s D will look for revenge after being absolutely destroyed by Peyton Manning. As for the Steelers, they have some serious issues.

Colts @ Patriots on NBC: Whoa, is this an awesome game or what? Brady looks like he is back, and so do the Colts after their impressive win in Denver. I think if anyone can knock off the Colts, it will be the Patriots at home.

The Who @ The Hollywood Bowl

The Radio Rebellion Tour w/ Norma Jean, Between the Buried and Me, Fear Before the March of Flames, Misery Signals, Bless the Fall @ House of Blues (Downtown Disney), Anaheim

Barenaked Ladies @ Radio Music City Hall

Next week:
Thursday, Nov. 9th
David Ford, opening for Ray LaMontagne at the Orpheum in L.A.:
Originally released in the U.K. late last year, the debut album I Sincerely Apologize for All the Trouble I've Caused was written, produced and performed in its entirety by David Ford, who recorded it at home using an Apple G4 computer. Ford plays virtually all the instruments on the album. Live, Ford is a raw, passionate solo performer, on some songs looping his own live guitar, piano, percussion and vocals to create majestic on-the-spot arrangements unlike anything you've seen before.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Sacha Baron Cohen
Kazakh reporter Borat travels to the United States in hopes of bringing back important knowledge to his primitive homeland.
Thoughts: This is one of the most anticipated movies of the year; I hope it lives up to the hype.

Flushed Away
Starring the voice talents of
: Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Andy Serkis, Bill Nighy, Simon Callow
: This animated feature tells the story of an uptown rat who is flushed down the toilet from his penthouse apartment into the sewers of London, where he has to learn a whole new way of life.
Thoughts: The coming attractions make this look like it’s going to be really good. It’s one of those animated films that doesn’t have a lot of hype but will probably be very good and find its audience.

Also opening this week:
The Santa Clause 3: Starring Tim Allen and Martin Short
Starring Penelope Cruz

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.

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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