Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Final Three

This was a sad week for me as we had to bid adieu to the lil metalheads, Light of Doom. No, I didn't think they deserved to win, but I sure did enjoy watching them rock out. I can only hope that when I see Iron Maiden at the forum next month, these kids will be the opening act. I'd cut my tailgating short for that.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - "September" / "Vehicle" / "The Way You Move Me"

Every week I call them a wedding band and nothing changed this week. I will admit their original was pretty catchy.

The Clark Brothers - "Change the World" / "Amazed" / "This Little Light of Mine"

My usual complaint about these guys is that Ashley is overly intense on every song, when intensity isn't always called for, and that was the case on "Change the World." I also felt they lost the melody a bit during their exploration. I liked the rockin' version of "This Little Light of Mine" but I wonder if the boys will lose some of their teen and tween vote for revealing that the dreamboat singer Ashley is married with a kid. There's no question these guys are the most original and talented band left in the competition, and they deserve to win.

Six Wire - "Reelin' in the Years" / "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" / "Good to Be Back"

These were all good song choices for this band, and their original tune "Good to be Back" is really catchy and deserves to be a hit. Their usual good harmonies and sex appeal were in full effect on the cover tunes, and the stripped down version of "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight" would win the singer a booty call from many gals in the audience, I'm sure.


Honestly, I'm pretty bored with this show as you can see from my late blogging, but if The Clark Brothers don't win this thing, I'll definitely be shocked and dismayed.

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Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A Very Mandisa Christmas

I guess I am more like The Griswolds than Martha Stewart when it comes to Christmas. If one poinsettia is festive, than a church altar decorated with 10,000 poinsettias must be cheerier. Gloria in excess, baby.

This was my first Christmas without my dad, who passed away in May, and the first Christmas that I didn't go to a Catholic mass. Those two things probably aren't coincidental. Still, I didn't feel like I could be totally secular about this holiday, so to break myself out of my blah humbug state, I decided to drive 30 miles to deepest Orange County to see an American Idol sing for free. Yes, I attended the Christmas Eve
"Hour of Power" at the Crystal Cathedral. I wasn't looking to be saved, but I was looking for some amazing Christmas tuneage and seasonal cheer beyond what I could find in spiked eggnog. The ginormous glass temple did not disappoint.

The Cathedral had, like, six Christmas Eve services, one after the other, all officiated by Rev. Robert H. Schuller and his son Rev Robert A. Schuller (famous to non-evangelicals as
the dad of one of the Laguna Beach girls). I attended the 6pm service which was broadcast on TV. The altar was fully decked with poinsettias and trees, and fake snow fell just like at neighboring Disneyland. There were a variety of musical performances - a full orchestra, impressive piano solo by octogenarian Roger Williams, a children's choir, and several soloists including American Idol's Mandisa. Mandisa was brought out for the finale, and she belted "Oh Holy Night" with enough verve and passion to convert Anton LaVey. Mandisa looked stunning, with perfect hair and makeup, and she radiated brightly enough to charm those of us way up in the rafters. I wished she had been able to sing more than one song, but, hey, there were lots of Christians in line outside waiting for the next service. I pictured her hanging out in the green room all day, listening to Jordin Sparks on her ipod, confirming tour details with George Huff, waiting for the call to sing "Oh Holy Night" every 90 minutes.

Thankfully, the service was long on music and short on preaching. The younger Schuller read the relevant gospel passages about Jesus' birth, and the octogenarian Schuller gave a slightly discombobulated yet oddly charming five-minute sermon which included the malapropism: "Just because you don't believe in Jesus doesn't mean he loves you anyway." This was great, as I got a dose of Catholic guilt and was reminded of every Christmas mass I ever attended where the priest would invariably say, "It's nice seeing the church so full today - you know, you are all welcome to come every week not just today and Easter, wink wink nudge nudge."

If you find yourself in need of a little Christmas spirit, right this very minute, or next year, I definitely recommend attending the Crystal Cathedral's Christmas Eve service or its spectacular "Glory of Christmas" show. The service is free, but the "Glory of Christmas" costs money - but then it's got live animals and Cirque de Christianity angels that swoop down from the rafters. It runs til January 5th.

Or you can pick up Mandisa's Christmas EP. It's gotta be better than Clay's Christmas album.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Merry Titmas, Baby

On Saturday night, I stopped by the opening reception for Lenora Claire's new breast-themed art show "Merry Titmas" at the World of Wonder gallery, 6650 Hollywood Blvd.

As these photos show, it was quite the scene, and the crowd was at times more interesting than the art. There was a photo booth on hand which captured more fabulosity.

This is a follow-up show to Lenora's wildly popular "Golden Girls Gone Wild" (click at your own risk - not work safe!) show from this past Fall, and while I missed that show, I'd say this one is worth a stop if you're in the neighborhood, though maybe not worth a special trip. There are a few standout pieces, but the overall effect reminded me of a high school art show (though I don't know what high school teacher would assign something so boob-centric to his/her pupils). Maybe I was just looking around at all the elaborately-costumed guests and some of the amateurish art and thinking back to my high school art student self, who liked to walk around in a tacky trench coat covered in peace signs, in some sort of desperate plea for attention or attempt to make a statement that I was too shy to verbalize, while painting really bad oil paintings depicting nuclear holocausts. Yes, maybe it's me.

Once I snapped out of this horrifying flashback, I checked out the art and found a few pieces that stood out. I liked a collage of Farrah Fawcett, made up of tiny magazine photo clippings. I got a chuckle from the topless Facts of Life girls (although Natalie seemed a bit too petite - perhaps some kind airbrushing?), and dug the topless-enhanced record covers of The Sound of Music (those hills are indeed alive!) and Dolly Parton. There are also two large, gorgeous photographs of Lenora Claire, the hostest with the mostest, whose ample boobage was precariously ensconced in a gravity-defying bustier. The pink boobie fountain is fun, too. Oh, and the Nativity painting with Mary as a Hooters waitress is hotter than a spicy wing.

Some proceeds from the show are being donated to the Susan G. Komen breast cancer fund, so there's some tithing going on along with all the titillation. The show runs through December 31.

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Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Queen Week

Ahh, a reality music show doing Queen! This brings back great American Idol memories of Kelly Pickler and Constantine Maroulis doing "Bohemian Rhapsody". The final four got to perform one Queen tune and one original.


The Clark Brothers - "These are the Days of Our Lives" / "Homestead"

The boys took Dicko's advice and added a guitarist and drummer for a fuller sound. I didn't recognize the Queen song, but I liked it. The overall sound reminded me more of Poi Dog Pondering than bluegrass. Their original was catchy but not particularly special, and once again I felt like the singer, Ashley, was trying too hard to be intense on a song that didn't call for it. Still, this band is clearly the front runner.

Light of Doom - "We Will Rock You" / "A Matter of Time"

The kids tried to speed up the Queen tune and it turned out sounding a bit muddled and rushed. Eric seemed to have trouble keeping up with the vocals, and the judges panned them. The original was good and heavy, but the judges felt it lacked a hook and thought perhaps it was too reminiscent of influences. I would say it did sound a lot like Iron Maiden - not that that's a bad thing.

Six Wire - "Fat Botomed Girls" / "Go On"

This was a good song choice for the competition's remaining bar band, and they gave a solid if not particularly original performance of it. These guys do have some sex appeal, and they worked it on this tune. Their original tune had a nice hook and was likable even on a first listen. I have to admit this band is growing on me.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - "Sleepin' on the Sidewalk" / "Big White House"

I was hoping to see Denver emerge in a white cat suit, but no, just the usual boring blazer and jeans look. A cat suit would have made this a little less boring. They picked a Queen song I didn't know and made it sound like a mid-80s Billy Joel song. Their original wasn't any better, but I feel this band is teflon and talking trash about them won't make any difference. Whoever is home watching this on Friday nights and voting - old ladies and kids - is way into this band. Those of us watching it later on Tivo are powerless to stop them.

Kicked Off

Dot Dot Dot

I'll miss these fashion victims and the new wave spin they'd put on songs, as well as the muscled guitar work by Rose and schizoid performances of frenetic front man Adam. I think they could have a future, and a couple of their originals were radio-ready.


I have a feeling Light of Doom will be leaving next week, due to bad reviews from the judges and representing a less popular genre than the other remaining bands. Of course, I'd much rather see Denver go, but I know better than to predict it.

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The Next Great American Band: Rod Stewart Week

I'm getting tired of this show, and still bummed that Cliff Wagner got booted last week, so having to endure an hour of Rod Stewart songs is a real test for me. Ugh.


Dot Dot Dot - "Young Turks"

I dug it. I thought it was frenetic but cool, and I really like Adam as a frontman even if the judges always slam him.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - "Baby Jane"

I don't have anything more to say about them. I just don't know who is voting for them. They are such a wedding band - nothing more - and they are too squeaky clean for the rock songs they are forced to play on this show.

Six Wire - "Hot Legs"

A solid performance but they don't often elevate themselves over a typical bar band, and in this case they were typical.

Clark Brothers - "You're in My Heart"

I know everybody loves these guys, but I just find Ashley to be overly-earnest in his vocals. He looks constipated because he tries so hard to wring every emotion of the song. Sometimes it's more appropriate than others. I can't take much away from these guys, though, because they are great musicians and certainly the class of the competition.

Light of Doom - "Infatuation"

This was a good song choice. I guess I think that because it's one of the few Rod songs I actually like. Eric's vocals were better and the judges noticed. He admitted he's been taking singing lessons - way to go, kid!

Kicked Off

Tres Bien

I'm not too surprised but a little sad to see these guys go. Their retro nerd rock was infectious and the frontman was very entertaining and had a lot of range. Like Cliff, I think they might have been at a disadvantage due to lacking in sex appeal.

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The Next Great American Band: The Rolling Stones Week


Tres Brien - "Get Off Of My Cloud"

I like the front man - he's got a harmless swagger, but he's fun.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestera - "I'm Fine"

They picked a song I didn't know and they delivered it sans sex appeal and edge, very un-Stones-ian. The world doesn't need another Huey Lewis and the News.

Six Wire - "The Last Time"

I didn't know the song. They're a very capable band but still strike me as dime a dozen.

Light of Doom - "Jumpin' Jack Flash"

Good job making the song harder and thus making it their own. The kids are having fun, and so am I, watching them. Singer Eric is a bit out of his league at this point - I think he needs lessons and time to become a true lead singer.

Clark Brothers - "Gimme Shelter"

This was a great, visceral rendition of the song. Ashley, the lead singer, alwasy connects emotionally with the songs, though sometimes I feel he overdoes it and chews the scenery a bit. His wrenching facial expressions suited this song.

Dot Dot Dot - "Let's Spend the Night Together"

Great vocal performance by Adam, and the band was sexy overall. Guitarist Rose also has star quality. Fun and feisty.

Going Home

Cliff Wagner and the Old Number 7

I really liked Cliff and thought he brought something fresh to the show. I think the band was maybe too homely for TV, or too unhip. Perhaps there was just too much competition in the bluegrass/country field with the better-looking Six Wire and the more-talented Clark Brothers. I would love to sit back with a bucket of Budweisers and watch Cliff in a little dive bar someday.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Lieber and Stoller Week


Light of Doom - "Jailhouse Rock"

Nice job workin' the crowd and great guitar solo, but they didn't really make the song their own. Also the singer's lack of vocal chops was noticeable.

The Clark Brothers - "Saved"

An interesting cover - but I find the singer to be overly intense. No matter what the song, he's got the intensity dialed up to 11. He's still cute, though.

Dot Dot Dot - "Love Potion #9"

I enjoyed their edgy rendition. They do seem kind of overly styled, though.

Cliff Wagner and The Old Number 7 - "Poison Ivy"

I really don't care for this song, but I liked their loungey version better than most. They did a good job adapting the tune to their style.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - "Ruby Baby"

I just have to reiterate that they are a cheesy wedding band. I might hire them for a company holiday party but, come on, people, they are not the next great American band!

Six Wire - "I Keep Forgettin"

This was a pleasant version and the song suited the singer's voice well. The Sawyer-esque singer gave the camera his usual smoldering look, which will likely earn them another week.

Tres Bien - "Some Other Guy"

This was a fun garagey performance. They're likable and could be a Monkees for the new generation.

Kicked Off

Franklin Bridge - I was stunned to see them go. I really thought they were one of the more talented bands, with a sexy frontman with a great voice. It's unbelievable that they left before Denver!


I think Denver and his Mile High Orchestra will be packing their many bags next week. At least, I hope so.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Billy Joel Week


Franklin Bridge - "Big Shot"

This sounded kind of muddled to me, but the judges loved it. Definitely some nice shredding and it rocked harder than the original. I do like these guys.

Cliff Wagner and The Old Number 7 - "You May Be Right"

I thought Cliff looked stylin' in his blue suit, but Dicko said he looked like he was auditioning to play Boss Hogg. They really slowed this tune down and played it slow, and I found it kinda oddly sexy.

Denver and The Mile High Orchestra - "Tell Her About It"

This was a pretty obvious song choice, but they played it well. Denver was more charming than usual, and we learned that his wife just had a baby, thus guaranteeing him congratulatory votes and sympathy votes since he's sacrificing time with his family for his career (cf, Phil from Idol).

Dot Dot Dot - "Pressure"

One of my favorite bands on this show performed one of my favorite Bill Joel tunes. Their frontman gave a wonderfully hammy performance that recalled A Clockwork Orange. He reminds me a bit of Simon Le Bon in that he compensates for not having the greatest voice by having a flair for the dramatic.

Six Wire - "She's Always A Woman"

They played the song in a mellow mood, and the singer delivered it with conviction. Nice harmonies, particularly the ending. In a Paula Abdul moment, Sheila E proposed to the singer.

Tres Bien - "Moving Out"

They didn't change up the song much, but they did add a garagey vibe. I like the singer - he's got nerdy charisma.

The Clark Brothers - "She's Got a Way"

I thought the singer looked tortured when he sang this, like he was a bit overwrought, but the judges loved it and said he connected with the material better than any of the others.

Light of Doom - "The Stranger"

The metal kids shredded through this tune with ferocity, very true to who they are. Great guitar work.

Sent Home

Rocket - I'll miss these gals, but I'm glad I didn't have to listen to them try to play "We Didn't Start the Fire."

The Muggs - I won't miss these guys, and I think their sour grapes faces as they were kicked off won't win them any fans.


I think just one band gets booted next week and it's hard to predict who it will be. All the bands got overall good comments from the judges. I hope I'm wrong, but I think Cliff Wagner and the Old Number 7 might be vulnerable, simply because they're not very attractive, and they played early in the show.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Acrostic Movie Review - Viva

Frisky, frothy and fun, Anna Biller's Viva
Entertains and was the highlight of the AFI Fest for
Me. A woman with a vision, Biller
Is the writer, director, editor,
Inclined star, composer of several
Songs, and she even
Tickles the ivories of the organ. The film is an homage to

Soft-core 70s films like Camille 2000 and the Roger
Ebert scripted Beyond the Valley of The Dolls.
X-rated hijinks ensue when bored housewife Barbi (Biller)
Pursues a career in prostitution. Shot on film and
Lit brightly, the sumptuous sets, racy costumes, and
On-target props create a perfectly detailed 70s world
In which the characters frolic en route to
The inevitable climactic orgy.
Acting is campy fun, but at
Times the pace is too slow, as the film
Is over-long at 2 hours.
Overdubbed dialogue sometimes distracts but
Not too

Badly as it lends verisimilitude. With this tour de farce,
Anna Biller deserves to be a cult film legend, and,
Baby, this is her happening and
You're gonna be freaked out!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Elton John Week


Six Wire - "Got to Get Away" / "Don't Let the Sun Go Down On Me"

I thought the original was uninteresting - like a filler song on a Jimmy Buffett album. The Elton cover was good, and they put a bit of a country spin on it. Good vocal. Dicko pronounced them "the housewives' choice".

Tres Bien - "How I Feel" / "Love Lies Bleeding"

These guys are starting to win me over a bit. There's something endearing about their dorkiness/hipster blend. Both songs were nerdy fun.

Franklin Bridge - "Love's Fool" / "Philadelphia Freedom"

I liked the original, particularly the drummer's rapping harmony. The Elton choice was a pretty obvious one for these Philly boys. Their vocalist really shone on it, and they injected a lot of soul into the tune. I see they took my advice to get a stylist seriously as they were wearing matching t-shirts. Still not in Rachel Zoe territory, but it's an improvement.

The Clark Brothers - "Country Time" / "Country Comfort"

Another good performance from these kids, who look more rock than country but definitely have country music in their veins.

Light of Doom - "Light of Doom" / "Saturday Night's All Right"

These kids rocked hard once again, delivering an original tune about their band name, in the tradition of Black Sabbath. "Step into the light of doom," sings young Eric, and I find myself ready to follow. The Elton song was a good choice, as they could play it fast. And to please Sheila E, they kept their shirts on.

Dot Dot Dot - "Stay" / "Your Song"

I loved the original - definitely radio-ready. They executed some smooth tempo shifts in the Elton tune, putting a new wave spin on it. The judges slammed the frontman, but I actually enjoy watching him. I think he has a lot of charisma even if he does seem somewhat affected.

Cliff Wagner and the Old Number 7 - "Little White Chapel" / "Honky Cat"

These guys are probably my favorite, next to Light of Doom. I loved the original and its quirky lyrics. It was about a teen Vegas wedding and Cliff dedicated it to Britney and her first husband.

The Muggs - "Should've Learned My Lessson" / "I Guess That's Why They Call It The Blues"

It figures my least-favorite band on this show would tackle my favorite Elton tune. Icky. I didn't think the singer delivered it with any feeling (if you want to hear a good version, check out Elton's duet with Mary J. Blige). His nasally voice grates on my nerves, and the judges felt the same way. He won't win points for sassing back to Sheila E, either.

Rocket - "Future Ex-Boyfriend" / "Rocketman"

The original was fun and spirited - kinda Blondie meets Gwen Stefani. The judges trashed the singer, but I didn't find her to be so bad.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - "All Night" / "I'm Still Standing"

I still think Denver lacks oomph and sex appeal, but the band is fun to watch and their arrangement of the Elton song was first-rate.


The Hatch and The Likes of You were sent packing. Dicko was quite upset about the Hatch, who he felt were very commercial. I, however, wasn't upset. I feel The Likes of You suffered from having the least amount of screentime on the audition episode, coupled with a mediocre performance.


I think The Muggs and Denver and the Mile High Orchestra will be going home next week.

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Monday, October 29, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Bob Dylan Week

I'm not a Dylan fan, so I wasn't looking forward to this, but then as I watched I realized, wow, I really do like Bob Dylan's songs - just not when they're delivered by his nasally voice. This week each band did a Dylan cover and an original song.

Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - "Freight Train Blues" / "One Time Show"

These guys seem like a wedding band to me, and I have to agree with Dicko that Denver is just not sexy or charismatic enough as a frontman. I don't think they'll last long.

The Hatch - "It's All Over Now Baby Blue" / "Stretch Out The Time"

These guys are like The Killers Lite, minus the hot fuss.

Light of Doom - "All Along the Watchtower" / "Eye of the Storm"

I love these kids, even if Sheila E was correct to point out that their shirtlessness is a bit disturbing. They are musically very tight, and the singer has great energy, good hair (important for metal) and a good voice. Not sure about the lyrics of the original song - was he singing "We can't stand the weather"? Still, they'd get my vote, if I wasn't watching this on my DVR two days later.

The Likes of You - "Blowing in the Wind" / "Love and Gravity"

I thought I liked singer Geoff Byrd's voice last week, but this week it was kind of prissy and affected. Johnny was right to tell him to lay off the falsetto.

Rocket - "Knocking on Heaven's Door" / "Mean To You"

I enjoyed this performance, even if it's kind of easy to take a Dylan song that's already been rocked out by others and repeat the rocking out of it. I loved their original - very catchy. They're fun to watch.

Cliff Wagner and the Old #7 - "Don' Think Twice It's Allright" / Some Original Song

I found the cover to be moving. They definitely played with feeling. I like these guys, but I wonder if they are too fugly and odd for the masses.

The Muggs - "Meet Me in the Morning" / "Slow Curve"

They're definitely good musicians but the judges were right to point out that the singer's voice is lacking, as is his confidence. I don't see them having much commercial appeal.

Clark Brothers - "Maggie's Farm" / "Billy the Kid"

I think these kids are among the front runners. They're cute, different, and great musicians. They need to be careful not to play on their cuteness too much or else become the Lawrence Brothers. Their original tune was very catchy.

Tres Bien - "Subterranean Homesick Blues" / "Easy to Love Me"

These guys just seem like fake retro to me, like so many other bands out there today.

Franklin Bridge - "Tangled Up in Blue" / "Incredible"

Sheila E predicted they'd win it all, and I do have to say they have a good shot at it. The singer is hot, and he's got a good voice. The band is really tight and able to get the crowd going. My only criticism is that they could use a stylist.

Dot Dot Dot - "Like a Rolling Stone" / "Another Stupid Love Song"

I like this band. They're fun to watch, and I like the mix of genders in the group. They do seem to spend a bit more time on their look than on their music, but I never faulted Duran Duran for that so I won't hold it against them.

Six Wire - "Mr. Tambourine Man" / "Good To Be Back"

The singer looks like Sawyer from Lost. He's got a nice voice, and the original tune was really good. Still, I'm not sure they are that different or interesting - they are typical new country. Sheila said they might win it, but I doubt it.


I think two bands get voted off next week. I think it will be Denver and the Mile High Orchestra and The Muggs.

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Westside LA Gets a Cool New Haunted House!

Coolia and I decided to visit our local haunted house last night, an abandoned Blockbuster Video locale, where Westwood, Overland and the 405 converge. Now I used to work at Blockbuster so I know just how scary the prospect of a haunted Blockbuster is...our sufferings from a cheapskate employer and ever disappearing employee discounts ("What do you mean video rentals are now full price for all employees? I don't want discounted jiffy pop!") This Blockbuster in question was particularly horrifying when it was open - a pitiful selection and zombie-like service. Good riddance to bad rubbish I said when the shop closed down months ago. I never dreamed ghosts and goulies would start squatting at the place.

Because it's our hood, we found it by driving news is sometimes a little bit scary. These do-it-yourself haunted houses don't feel quite The handmade signs look a little nutty.

But the ticket-takers seemed normal enough and you could adjust your own scare-level, which was very decent of them. We picked Code Red which was just shy of the ultimate scare Bloody Code Red or Bloody F-ing Code Red. I can't remember.

The do-it-yourself-ness of the maze reminded me of the great haunted mazes of my old neighborhood in St. Louis. And for $12 (less for kids), it was perfect, just long enough but not rip-off short. And the ghosts were fully into their tasks; some were downright creepy.

What I appreciated most was that they controlled the experience, only letting one group of friends enter at a time (as you know there's protection in numbers; no protection in no numbers - which makes the crowds at NotScaryFarm kind of a drag) and the ghouls "personalize your journey" as you walk through. It's both hilarious and effective.

For more information on the maze, visit their MySpace page.

To read another review on them:

Here are the details:
Creepy Hollow
3101 Overland Ave.
Corner of National and Overland (where Blockbuster used to be)
Neighborhood: Palms
Hours: Friday- Sunday 7 :00 PM- 11:00 PM
Open Halloween

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Acrostic Movie Review - 30 Days of Night

John Huston's son Danny is just as hammy as his
Old man, however that works fine for his
Sinister role of leader of a creepy, Nosferatu-lookin' vampire gang
Hungry for Alaskans' blood, and

Lured to the northernmost town of Barrow by the promise of 30 days of
Endless night. Josh Hartnett plays the town sheriff who
Finds himself with an impossible challenge and is forced to
Team up with his estranged wife played by

Melissa George. Josh is cute but cardboard, and the twosome fail to
Elevate anyone's temperature with their tepid romancing.

Creepiness abounds and there are some scares before the plot stalls.
One could do worse if looking for Halloween cineplex fare, just
Lower your expectations. These vampires are fast, but the film is no 28
Days Later.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Next Great American Band: Auditions

We at the Ape Blog can't resist shows from the American Idol machine...and this one looks like it might be pretty entertaining.

The Top 12

  • Tres Bien - They've got the retro 60s hipster thing going, but I was underwhelmed. Catchy tune, to be sure.
  • Light of Doom - How much did I love these 12 year old metalheads who cite Iron Maiden as their influence? Can they play with Legos? No, but they can play with madness!
  • The Hatch - I found these guys kinda boring, another dime-a-dozen band from Williamsburg. Their pretty boy frontman got them to advance by batting his eyelashes at Sheila E.
  • Clark Brothers - I liked these kids - 3 brothers from a family of 11 kids whose dad was an evangelist. Nice harmonies and guitar work but they need to be careful to not be too Hanson-esque. Mmmm...God!
  • Dot Dot Dot - Edgy looks and sassy cover of "Always Something There to Remind Me." I heard their single "Stay" on Sirius Radio today, so do they even need this show?
  • The Muggs - They describe themselves as "the ugliest band in the world" and I won't argue. Solid musicianship and a heart-tugging story as one member is recovering from a stroke, but they may be too old to please the kids.
  • Denver and the Mile High Orchestra - And now for something completely different...a big band. I'd agree with Dicko that Denver lacks the sex appeal of a Harry Connick Jr. or a Frank Sinatra.
  • Six Wire - They call themselves "edgy country" but I saw heavy "Rascall Flatts" influences in them. They harmonize well but they're kinda old.
  • Cliff Wagner and Old Number 7 - Cliff has a strange appeal. Their bluegrass cover of "Like a Virgin" got them through to the next round. I like them - they're quirky.
  • The Likes of You - We didn't get any backstory on these guys, but the singer was hot and had an amazing voice.
  • Franklin Bridge - Wow, these guys can rock. They reminded me of Living Colour. Dicko pronounced them a front runner.
  • Rocket - Girl rockers who seemed kinda generic to me. Dicko pulled a Simon Cowell by telling them only one of them was attractive.
Also Rans
  • Zombie Bazooka Patrol - I loved these guys! I'm so bummed they didn't make the Top 12, especially after we heard the judges say they'd made it through to the next round. Their song "Better Off Undead" was catchy and reminded me of Camper Van Beethoven.
  • Northmont - Lead singer Ward brooded about this being his last chance, and his band got 2 chances to audition, but they didn't distinguish themselves. Ward got high marks from the judges but I'm not sure why, with his tired Eddie Vedder climbing schtick.
  • Zolar X - Aliens from Plutonia. Earth was not amused.
  • Sizzling Happy Family - Had to give up their dreams if they didn't make it, and they failed to elevate over being a typical bar band, even though they did grill a rubber chicken in the middle of their guitar solo
  • Fifi LaRue - Fifi is a middle-aged "gothic killer klown" who lives at home with his mom.
  • Ian Dickson - Also known as "Dicko", Ian is the Simon Cowell of Australian Idol and he provides the brutal honesty
  • Sheila E - She's nice like Paula but sober.
  • Johnny Rzeznik - Goo Goo Dolls singer is still nice to look at, but his critiques didn't really get too specific.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Jack Nicholson at the AFI Gala - Still Crazy After All These Years

I attended the AFI 40th Anniversary Gala at the Arclight last night - 1o classic films introduced by their stars. This was a pretty amazing lineup: Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner introducing When Harry Met Sally, Kirk Douglas for Spartacus, Julie Andrews for The Sound of Music, Angela Lansbury for Beauty and the Beast, George Lucas for Star Wars, Warren Beatty for Bonnie and Clyde, Tippi Hedren for The Birds, Clint Eastwood for Unforgiven, Sylvester Stallone for Rocky, and, last but not least, Jack Nicholson introducing One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

Jack has been my primary celebrity obsession since I was in junior high, and since I moved to LA four years ago I'd seen him in person three times: twice at Laker games, once at the premiere of
Something's Gotta Give. When the tickets for this AFI gala sold out instantly, I resorted to overpaying on ebay. I just couldn't miss the chance to hear him speak.

We arrived early and were immediately thwarted by security who forced us to take the long way around the theater so as not to soil the red carpet. It was clear, and not surprising, that the common people were going to be sequestered from the stars.

Once inside, we made a beeline to the auditorium to secure one of the limited number of official souvenir programs. We then grabbed free popcorn and sodas. We hit the bar. We didn't see any stars even though showtime was only about 30 minutes away. We moved to a spot near the lobby but security guards were pretty determined to keep the area clear. I did get to see Jack walk in, but I didn't see any of the other stars. Lurking around outside by the red carpet might have been a better strategy but, really, I saw who I came to see.

The movie started almost an hour late. Jean Picker Firstenberg, AFI President and CEO, came onstage and apologized for the lateness and assured us it wasn't Jack's fault (true - he was about 15 minutes early). Maybe she had to introduce all the screenings or something, we surmised. She introduced Jack, and the crowd leapt to its feet. Jack looked kinda rumpled and his hair was all askew. One TMZ commentor likened his hairstyle to a baby orangutan.

Jack launched into a rapid-fire free association of stories about making the picture. I love it when movie stars refer to movies as "pictures." It's just so Old Hollywood. Some highlights of his comments:

  • Kirk Douglas played the role on Broadway but by the time the film was ready to be made, Kirk was 60, and his producer son Michael deemed him too old for the role. Jack said Kirk still gives him a hard time about it, even that night on the red carpet. (I guess Kirk got the last laugh - he got the Cinerama Dome for his screening)
  • He said he'd spoken to Louise Fletcher recently and praised her performance and her cold blue eyes.
  • He also said he'd spoken to ex-flame Anjelica Huston recently and recalled she was in the film in the scene where the inmates hijack a boat and go fishing. I hadn't realized that and if you blink you'll miss it - she's an extra in the crowd scene as the boat returns to shore.
  • It was the 2nd movie to win all the major Oscars (picture, actor, actress, director, screenplay). The first was It Happened One Night and since Cuckoo's Nest only Silence of the Lambs has done it.
  • As a struggling writer/actor, Jack had tried to option the rights to Ken Kesey's book but got trumped by Kirk Douglas. When he got the role, he knew the material well and gave a few suggestions such as "cutting out the Big Indian's monologues".
  • Good friends Jack and Danny DeVito met on this film and Jack was impressed by DeVito's improvisation of throwing the basketball at the fence during the basketball scene.
  • Jack said his own improvisation in the scene where the Doctor (a real shrink, not an actor) does his intake interview was one of his favorite improv scenes and that he had been showing off that day because his daughter Jennifer was on the set.
  • Scatman Crothers kept them entertained on the set and convinced Jack to get him roles in 2 other films - The Fortune and The Shining.
  • He expressed admiration for his stuntman who executed the acrobatic climb over the razor-wire fence.
  • He told some story about his dog and coming home to find duck feathers all over the yard one day. Like I said, free associating.
Midway through, Jack asked, "Is this boring?" We all yelled out "NO!" He said he had been told he was only supposed to speak 3 minutes but he probably spoke for 10 minutes. It'd be criminal to hold Jack to 3 minutes!

Once he finished, he left the auditorium and the film began. I quickly came down from the high of seeing Jack and remembered why I hadn't watched this film since high school - it's freakin' bleak. My friend pointed out that watching it and knowing the outcome is even harder because you find yourself willing the characters to do whatever's necessary to avert the ending. But still, it's a powerful film - and a powerhouse performance - everything from the bold improvised World Series game... to the thoughtful, wordless expressions on his face as Billy and Candy have their date in the other room and he's on the verge of passing out, waiting to escape... to the final rage against the big nurse.

Thanks, AFI. Thanks, Jack. Nights like this remind me why I live in LA.

Read my sordid tale of Jack Nicholson obsession on Ape Culture

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Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Rock of Love Finale: Manic Panic defeats Aquanet

Well, Rock of Love, aka The White Trash Flavor of Love, came to end on Sunday, leaving me with one less embarrassing season pass on my tivo.

I was excited for this show because I'm a Poison fan, and I've always thought Bret was cute, even if all the hard livin' is starting to take its toll on his face. I was also excited by the possibility that we'd finally learn if Bret was bald or not - he's been hiding under those doo rags and cowboy hats for like 15 years now. I figured the hat would fall off during some passionate groupie encounter, but alas the hat only came off in carefully constructed scenes, and the hair looked like it could have been a wig (no discernible part and much fuller than it looked when he had hats on).

Much of this show was hard to watch, as it followed the usual reality mating show pattern where the girls are pitted against each other (virgins vs whores, as usual) and given lots of alcohol to stir up the drama and up the nudity. The machinations of the show and its editing were always apparent, especially in the inexplicable way that Lacey stuck around to nearly the end, when it was clear she was insane, diabolical, and not even attractive. I'm sure the producers told Bret to keep her in the house to stir the pot and make good TV.

In this week's finale, Bret had to make his final choice between Heather, the huge-haired, big-titted stripper without the heart of gold, and Jes, the very pretty but very young pink-haired pseudo-innocent. I was pretty sure he'd go with Jes, as he had seemed drawn to her from the get-go, but you never know if a fear of change might make him choose Heather, who appeared to have amassed her wardrobe from a Tawny Kitaen yard sale.

Bret took the gals to Cabo and spent 24 hours with each. Heather lost points on her date for appearing insensitive to Bret's diabetes (which Bret himself appears insensitive to, given his binge drinking). When they were in a dune buggy, Bret said he didnt feel well and wanted to eat. Heather looked at him blankly and replied that she wanted to drive, thus risking his life for a cheap thrill. Then Heather gained points back by declaring her love for him over dinner and then boinking him (or so it appeared).

The more sensitive Jes cried when Bret explained to her how to give him a shot in case he went into diabetic shock, and she made steps toward breaking down her wall, which Bret had feared she wouldn't be able to do. She also made out with him quite a bit and spent the night with him.

When it came time for the choice, Bret came up with a true rock star proposal: he asked the gals if they would both be his girlfriend. Heather looked pissed off but said "sure" without much hesitation. Jes refused and said she didn't have it in her. Bret picked Jes and Heather left without another word to him, and then she spewed a bunch of hatred in the limo as she was whisked away.

I predict Rock of Love II will be on the horizon, as I don't see Bret and Jes sticking it out for the long haul. She's sweet but probably too sensitive to deal with the rock star lifestyle, and the age and experience difference is about as big as the gap between C. C. Deville's ego and his ability.

For the record, Heather is claiming on her myspace blog that she was violated by editing and that she never said she'd share Bret. She does not, however, admit that her hairstyles were the works of visual effects artists.

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Friday, September 07, 2007

Luncinda Williams at the El Rey

Lucinda Williams at the El Rey Theater, Los Angeles; September 6, 2007

Why do I love LA? Because sometimes an awesome idea becomes realized. Lucinda Williams decided to do a set of dates at LA’s El Rey theater. But instead of the same set each night, she performs one album in its entirety each night. The albums: World without Tears; Essence; Car Wheels on a Gravel Road; Sweet Old World; Lucinda Williams

Three or four years ago, my father discovered Lucinda Williams and one day sent me practically her entire catalogue from From these shows, I picked my favorite, Essence, and it turned out to be solid awsomeness.

In the will-call line, we stood one couple in front of my boyfriend’s favorite artist, Lucinda’s onetime boyfriend, Mike Stinson (LA Magazine declares Stinson LA’s finest coutry-western singer/songwriter) and Stinson's new girlfriend Pamela Des Barres. Later I stood in line in front of Pamela as we waited in the ladies bathroom line (uncomfortable much?) and Stinson and Des Barres again stood behind us for much of Lucinda’s first half. My bf wanted to tell Stinson he loved his last show, especially his rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War” but never got the chance. I wanted to tell Pamela I was in a state of extreme conflict about identity issues and co-dependency I preceived when I read her first book I’m With the Band when I was a tween. But I refrained.

Although I’m starting to love Lucinda’s dark, gothic evangelical songs, I’ve always loved the more mellow tracks on Essence, its evocative loneliness and unity of sound.

She sang the album in its order:
1. Lonely Girls (love it)
2. Steal Your Love (had to restart a few times)
3. I Envy The Wind (bf loves this one)
4. Blue
5. Out Of Touch (about her sister, not a past lover)
6. Are You Down?
7. Essence (absolutely kicked ass)
8. Reason To Cry
9. Get Right With God (absolutely kicked ass)
10. Bus To Baton Rouge (bf loves this one, said it made him vaclempt)
11. Broken Butterflies

And then I thought that would be it but after a 30 minute intermission, Lucinda played a second set with some of her favorite LA artists as guests.

She did a duet of the Carter/Cash classic "Jackson" (absolutely kicked ass)

She also did:
- Reason to Cry
- Are You Alright
- Drunken Angel
- And Unsuffer Me and People Talkin (love both of those)

She did a new song from West called "Honey Bee" which caused controversy in our little group over whether or not one can write a good love song in a happy state.

Her guests included Greg Dulli, Tim Easton, and Mike Stinson who sang “Slip My Mind for Me” with Lucinda. It reminded my bf and me of the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.”

I was respectfully impressed by this show simply due to the amount of songs Lucinda had to relearn for five brief nights. Imagine how the new guitarist in the band must have felt. And imagine hearing “Bless their hearts!” from the rough, southern voice of Lucinda, who's natural physical state seems to be a little drunk on something, if not booze.

On another blog I’ve been talking about the beauty of imperfection. Lucinda is the poster child for imperfect beauty. She starts and stops her songs all the time (“we’re recording and I wanna get it right”) if a song is too slow or off key or she forgets a lyric. She rambles on with self-deprecation about missed sound checks and misplaced friends. She sports strange outfits like a tight black cocktail dress over jeans.

I've seen Lucinda twice before, once with my parents when she opened for Willie Nelson at the Santa Barabara Bowl and once when she performed with her father, poet Miller Williams, at UCLA's Royce Hall. Each show I've seen has been entirely unique. But she’s the pinnacle, the closest artist to Bob Dylan, our friend declared to a woman seeing Lucinda for the first time last night. She nails it, shows you the perfection in the imperfection. Her lyrics are spartan yet poetic and her music is country, folk and blues. If she were a food she’d be salmon on a bed of gravy and rice: cooked fine and delicate on top, served sloppy on the bottom.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Spinal Tap at The Avalon in Hollywood

Last night I saw Spinal Tap at the Avalon theater in Hollywood. They were playing a benefit show for the International Myeloma Foundation. McKean started the show with his wife, a marriage which was a big surprise to me: actress of stage and screen and co-writer of many of The Mighty Wind tunes: Annette O’Toole. McKean and O’Toole started the show with a small set from their stage act “No Standards” which was actually a trio group with O’Toole’s talented daughter Nell Geisslinger. The highlight was the hilarious celtic spoof “Killington Hill.”

Next Harry Shearer arrived to play bass for a few songs with his wife Judith Owen, a Welch singer-songwriter. Owen sang songs from her latest album “Happy This Way” including the funny take on Paris-Hilton-types in “Cool Life” and the amazing “Painting By Numbers.” Owen’s comedy schtick was laid on a little too thick. She was funny, yet annoying. But her voice was stridently soulful and her lyrics were amazing. I'll download some of her songs for sure.

McKean came back to play with Naomi Margolin who sang Lee Grayson’s signature song “Rainbow Connection.” Grayson was a mentor of McKean who died of Myeloma. McKean then enthusiastically introduced Van Dyke Parks for a short set with his band. In blue jean overalls, Parks impressed the music nerds in the audience who appreciated his legendary stauts. I was clueless about his piece of history but enjoyed the song “Orange Crate Art.”

Christopher Guest then arrived, the only Tap member of the evening sans wife (Jamie Lee Curtis). C.J. Vanston also joined on keyboards and Shearer came back for the full Tap show. It was fun. It was rockin and Guest played some mean guitar. It still doesn't go without saying: these guys can perform. They played Spinal Tap songs:

- Hellhole
Stonehenge (with Annette and daughter running about like elves)
Cups and Cakes
Gimme Some Money (which they dedicated to American Express)
Listen to the Flower People
and the first song David St. Hubbins and Nigel Tufnel ever wrote together, All the Way Home

They sang Mighty Wind songs:

- Never Did No Wanderin'
Loco Man
Corn Wine
Blood on the Coal
Start Me Up (my absolute favorite so I was a thrilled peach!)

(and even three songs from The New Main Street Singers)

- Old Joe's Place
- and
Jane Lynch joined them on The Good Book Song and
Potato's in the Paddy Wagon

Christopher Guest seemed pouty and sullen most of the evening, sitting out two or three songs, and Harry Shearer was pretty quiet overall but funny when he accidentally dropped his guitar much in the character of Derek Smalls. Michael McKean who very happily and charmingly hosted most of the night’s show seemed to have the best time being on stage with his friends and family. I only wished David Lander as Squiggy could have been up there for old times. But he was probably goodwill ambassadoring for MS.

Note: photo from recent Newport Music Festival.

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Sunday, August 19, 2007

Movie Review: The King of Kong - A Fistful of Quarters

I took in The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters with a capacity crowd last night at the NuArt. What a great movie! The crowd cheered for the hero and hissed at the villain to the point where it felt more like a summer blockbuster than a documentary about 80s video games.

The film chronicles an epic battle over the Donkey Kong high score. The champion, Billy Mitchell, set the record as a teen in 1982. He got his picture in Life magazine, and, with his feathered hair and premature moustache, he was definitely the hottie of the geek champs in the photo spread. 25 years later, Billy is still riding high on his video game triumphs, sporting a lush mullet and governing an empire of hot sauce in Florida. He's the unimpeachable idol of his peers, including the governing body of video game high scores, the Twin Galaxies gang.

Billy's record - and honor - is challenged by a much-lower wattage personality, Steve Wiebe. Steve's got some OCD issues, but he's basically a likable family guy from Washington with a Donkey Kong machine in his garage. There's a hilarious scene where his attempt at breaking the high score is threatened by his son screaming that he pooped his pants and needs to be wiped. Steve mounts a valiant challenge but comes up against the skepticism of Twin Galaxies, which is revealed to be quite the cabal.

The movie is a classic underdog story. It's also hilarious, without really being condescending. The filmmakers clearly have respect for the ability of the players - Donkey Kong is revered as one of the most challenging games - yet they can't help but be skeptical of the time and effort spent on earning these records (nobody expresses this better than Wiebe's daughter - watch for that moment). You just can't help but get laughs from a subculture than includes an 80-year-old gal trying to break the Q-Bert record. It definitely conjures up a lot of nostalgia for those of us thirtysomethings who spent a lot of time in the arcade, lining up our quarters on top of the Dig Dug and Paperboy machines. But with characters as compelling as Billy and Steve, and the motley crew of supporting pro gamers, you don't have to have been an Atari 2600 owner to enjoy this film.

The director, Seth Gordon, and editors were on hand for last night's screenings, along with a colorful personality known as "Mr. Awesome." The filmmakers deserve a lot of props for turning what could be deadly dull (it takes 2.5 hours to play a record-challenging game) into an entertaining, suspenseful, fast-paced documentary that's a classic good vs evil story.

Now, if only I could clear that first elevator screen...

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Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Movie Review: Crazy Legs Conti: Zen and the Art of Competitive Eating

A Rocky for fat kids, this documentary tells the story of Crazy Legs Conti’s transformation from Nathan's hot dog contest spectator to participant. If that’s not the American dream for 2007, I don’t know what is.

The film is entertaining mainly because Conti is likable and surprisingly normal. He works out and only weighs about half as much as the average competitive eater. The film gives us his journey from watching the annual Nathan’s contest, to impulsively winning an oyster-eating endurance test, to winning an oyster-eating speed contest and securing membership in the IFOCE (International Federation of Competitive Eating) run by George and Richard Shea. These two are slick talent agents who represent the stars of the sport, although they calmly reassure Conti he’s not signing a Vince McMahon-esque pact where they will own his “character.”

To achieve true greatness, Conti must conquer the hot dogs. He trains hard with the goal of earning a spot in the super bowl of competitive eating – the Nathan’s 4th of July event. There’s some interesting bits on his development of a technique (he takes notes on the style of the unbeatable Kobayashi. I would have enjoyed more focus on the “zen” as the title promised, but aside from a small segment with Conti’s mom, who lives in Japan most of the year and follows the competitive eating circuit there, there’s not much insight into the spiritual side of the sport. Heck, more enlightenment on the genetics and body mechanics of the champs would have been good, too. Conti does get to have breakfast with Kobayashi, the petite hot dog champ, but that dude won't give up any of his secrets.

Don’t miss the DVD extras, which include a clip of the arrogant Ed “Cookie” Jarvis as he models his hideous 4XL denim trench coat embroidered with all of his contest victories and TV appearances, and Conti and friends engaging in a marshmallow Peep eating contest during their Easter dinner. Mangia!

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Friday, August 10, 2007

Kindred Spirit: RIP Tammy Faye

We'd been putting off watching her final TV appearance because we’d come to love her on Surreal Life and in documentaries and other Larry King Live appearances. In fact, she so impressed us by her behavior on Surreal Life that we’d come to be unlikely fans of this Christian evangelical, fans because she was so much more open hearted and true to her convictions than the false evangelicals our television is often crawling with.

So it was heartbreaking to see that the world would soon lose one of its rare Christian spirits. It seems so unfair. But she was inspiring to the end on Larry King Live calling regret a “waste of brain space.” Although her appearance initially made us gasp, Tammy Faye (Baker) Messner truly sparkled a mere 36-48 hours before her death.

I found
Deepak Chopra’s appearance on the show as commentator highly ironic. The self-help-sounding guru has become the spiritual touchstone of a self-described Christian nation. It’s incredible. Should we feel hopeful that American are finally opening up in spiritual consciousness beyond these Sideshow-Bob Christian evangelicals? Or should we be depressed that America has instead settled on Chopra’s captalistic empire of pop-meditations?

Larry King Live struck us as firmly skeptical, but he touched us when he announced that Tammy Faye had dwindled down to 65 pounds and that it must be all heart. To put her 65 pounds of heart into perspective. Our
Edgar Winter Dog weighs 35 himself. She didn’t even weigh two Edgars!

For a primer on forgiveness, I’m planning to read Tammy Faye's autobiography, “
Telling It My Way,” to learn how she overcame betrayals on multiple fronts throughout her life. Tammy Faye joked she wanted to be remembered for her eyelashes (and her walk with the Lord). But she can best be remembered for her sense of humor in the face of mortality, a gesture that shows she clearly had an authentic connection with a higher place.

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Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Acrostic Movie Review - El Cantante

Jenny's not just a big butt and a smile.

La Lopez produced this labor
Of love with her beloved Puerto

Rican, Marc Anthony, who
Embodies of the role of Hector Lavoe
A salsa
Lopez tells the story as Puchi,
Yes, that's a real name. And yes, she's

Incredible. We
Said it. Incredible.

Found ourselves on the verge of tears. Her
Realistic Nuyorican flava,
Outstanding next to her curve hugging couture,
Metallic makeup and

Disco moves -
An audiovisual cultural fusion that

Backdrops the birth of Salsa nicely.
Leon Ichaso, who directed Pinero, works his
Own magic with Lavoe's life. See "El
Cantante" to experience and
Know the real "West Side Story".

-- By Nova and Alyssa Gutierrez

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Monday, July 09, 2007

It's the End of The Sopranos As We Know It

"Oh the movie never ends, it goes on and on and on"
- Journey, "Don't Stop Believin'"

Last week I watched the entire final season of
The Sopranos. Overall, I thought it was a great ending to the series - lots of new complications, lots of whacking, a bit of closure. Like many, I nearly lost my patience with last season's "If Tony could see his navel, he'd be navel-gazing" hospital episodes. I was glad to see a lot of action in this season.

The drunken brawl between Tony and Bobby started things with a bang this season. Tony offing Christophuh after their car accident was brilliant and terrifying. I had nearly been able to overlook my long-term (twisted) crush on Tony to admit he deserved to die for that act, when he surprised me with his tender rescue of AJ after AJ's pathetic suicide attempt. The break-up of Dr. Melfi and Tony was good, although I was hoping they'd finally hook up. Bobby gets whacked at the toy train store. Silvio gets shot and ends up in a coma. Things were looking dire for our gangster heroes until some advice from a friend with the feds led to locating Phil Leotardo. I can't think of a whacking I enjoyed watching more, as Phil gets shot exiting his SUV. His wife flies out of the car to his side without bothering to put it in park, and the car, with their twin grandbabies in the backseat, begins to roll and rolls right over the fallen Phil's head. The sound effects and reaction shots of the witnesses were so money.

So, I was feeling really jazzed about the way the season and even the final episode were going until we got to that diner. Tony arrives first and plays "Don't Stop Believin'" on the jukebox. This made me happy - ya gotta love Journey. Carmela arrives, then AJ. Onion rings are ordered. Various ominous figures are shown lurking: a guy in a fishing hat in a booth, a guy in a Members Only jacket who looks shifty as he walks to the bathroom (conjuring up The Godfather), two hip hop guys at the jukebox. Meadow has a lot of difficulty parallel parking. Just as she enters the diner, Tony looks up, startled. Fade to black. That's it? That's it?? You fuckin' kiddin' me?

Did Tony get whacked? We'll never know. It would seem weird that they'd do it in front of his whole family, but not that weird. With Phil gone, would the rival family even care enough to whack Tony? It was Phil that started this bloody skirmish.

I'm not sure how the show should have ended, but I know that ending didn't do it for me. It was like a cheap Friday the 13th sequel ending, where it just leaves things open for another sequel. But if there is a movie version or some sort of follow-up, maybe that'll be a good thing, because I already miss these characters.

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