Arts & Entertainment

Film Review: Prison escape proves to be an ordinary affair

In a castle there is a division of roles: The good guys stay on the inside and the bad guys stay on the outside. But what happens when the good guys are trying to escape the bad guys and they’re both on the inside? You wind up with “”The Last Castle,”” starring Robert Redford and James Gandolfini. Redford plays General Irwin, a career army man who is sentenced to 10 years in military prison on the eve of his retirement. Irwin arrives at “”the Castle”” prepared to serve his sentence quietly, but upon arrival, he is confronted by the harsh rule of prison warden Colonel Winter (Gandolfini). At first, Redford is skeptical about the other prisoners’ complaints that the brutality they live with goes far beyond the norm of other maximum-security establishments. However, after a few horrible acts of corporal punishment and a miss-aimed rubber bullet, Redford changes his mind and decides to lead his fellow inmates’ crusade to oust Gandolfini. Besides, what else has he got to do? Redford is well-cast as the commanding Irwin, and not just because of his intense military presence. There is no one else in the cast that holds the same Hollywood stature as Redford — stature that seems necessary to play the general. As a result, due focus is not given to the rest of the cast. Sadly, Gandolfini is misdirected as the tyrannical Winter. An actor with amazing capabilities, Gandolfini lacks the fluid delivery that would have made Winter a true terror. Instead, he appears uncomfortable in his military uniform and resorts to hand gestures that are reminiscent of a Tony Soprano persona. Hidden behind the shadow of Redford and Gandolfini is a talented supporting cast. Clifton Collins Jr. plays the mentally challenged Aguilar, a character whose development greatly enhances the film. Similarly, Delroy Lindo’s character, the feisty General Wheeler, provides the film with a much needed attitude check. Filmed in the historic Tennessee State Penitentiary, “”The Last Castle”” visually captures the rigid confinement of the prison and the subsequent robbery of self-worth that occurs within its walls. Director Rod Lurie does an excellent job contrasting the serenity of Winter’s office, complete with classical music, with the chaos of the prison yard. Despite the film’s flaws, the scenes of the prisoners’ take-over are enjoyable, especially as the plot turns into one giant game of capture the flag. The catapult built by the prisoners is particularly entertaining, as are the impacts of a few expertly-aimed boulders. The concept of “”The Last Castle”” is an interesting one, but the execution is nothing new. The residual effect is something much akin to a childhood sand castle: It’ll slowly crumble away and leave no trace. ...

album reviews

Macy Gray The Id Epic “”Id: the part of the psyche that is the source of instinctual impulses and demands for satisfaction.”” So reads the inside cover of Macy Gray’s sophomore album, “”The Id.”” And it’s true — her impulsive music demands satisfaction. When Gray’s debut album, “”On the Way Life is,”” was first released in 1999, her virtual anonymity became short-lived once songs like “”I Try”” hit the airwaves. She refreshed us with multidimensional melodies and a dynamic presence. Her blend of soul, R&B, funk and hip-hop set her apart from her contemporaries. While “”The Id”” maintains much of Gray’s unique style and subject matter, this time around Gray’s outlandish personality shines through even brighter than before. “”The Id”” is about the psyche of Gray. Gray’s quirks appear throughout the album. Her lyrics are punchy and, when you pay attention, they’ll make you think or laugh, especially songs like “”Give Me All Your Lovin”” or “”I Will Kill You.”” The sound of “”Sexual Revolution”” is a funky experimentation with an updated disco pulse that will soon be heard on dance floors. The most astonishing aspect of the album, however, is the song “”Oblivion,”” which sounds as if it was ripped from the score of “”Fiddler on the Roof.”” Dispersed through the oddities of Gray’s album are the slow beats and riveting sounds of trumpets that accompany her wherever she goes. “”Sweet Baby”” is the epitome of Macy Gray’s talents and the piece most reminiscent of her debut album. It’s an added plus that Erykah Badu performs the perfectly harmonic second half of the duet. Yes, it’s true that Gray wore pink rain boots to the Grammy Awards last year. But regardless of her “”instinctual impulses”” and eccentricities, “”The Id”” is it. — Mara Evans, Contributing Writer Tori Amos Strange Little Girls Atlantic Tori Amos didn’t thank the faeries in the liner notes to her new album, “”Strange Little Girls.”” On her other releases, her thanks have, of course, gone out to her band, her friends or her family. And she has always thanked “”the faeries.”” She has intimated that the faeries inspire her song writing. And so, although it was jarring to have them missing, the faeries have little place on “”Strange Little Girls”” — Amos didn’t write a single song on the album. Instead, the 12 tracks are all songs written by men — Eminem, Lou Reed, Tom Waits, Neil Young and the Beatles among them. In her characteristically esoteric style, she explains that she performed the songs as stories told from the perspective of women who “”approached [her] and said, ‘I have a point of view on this song that you may want to know, that may change how you hear its meaning.'”” Choosing standout tracks is nearly impossible, but a few lead the pack. With samples from politicians, pundits and a journalist reporting on John Lennon’s murder, Amos turns Lennon and McCartney’s “”Happiness Is a Warm Gun”” into a trippy meditation on the right to bear arms. But the most haunting piece is her flip-side take on Eminem’s “”’97 Bonnie and Clyde.”” She chants the gruesome murder-fantasy like a bedtime story, as if she is the mother whose body is pitched into a lake by her ex-husband and their baby daughter. Schizophrenia? Maybe. But as varied as the songs are individually, the album as a whole achieves a unity of theme and mood not seen since “”Boys for Pele”” and “”Under the Pink.”” The entire album pulses with an energy that is unapologetically female — and unquestionably Tori. — Claire J. Vannette, Senior Staff Writer Halfcocked The Last Star Dreamworks For those who are tired of being exposed to the explosion of the rap/techno/rock combos and mellowed-out pop alternative, Halfcocked’s major label debut album, “”The Last Star,”” is here to feed your ears — a fresh, artfully harmonic blend of metal, punk and good old 1970s hard rock, laden with surprisingly smooth melodic pop sensibilities. Their name is a Boston expression that means “”slightly drunk,”” which is quite apt for describing their frenetic style. The members consist of two men and three women, including drummer Charlee Johnsson, who founded the band, and lead singer Sarah Reitkopp, whose amazing rock goddess vocals are like a cross between those of No Doubt’s Gwen Stefani and Curve’s Toni Halliday. “”I Lied”” immediately draws you in with its simple yet extremely catchy guitar riffs and an intense chorus featuring fierce melodic bursts that stop intelligently short of the typical harsh screaming. It will have you nodding, if not outright head-banging, and belting out “”I lied,”” in no time. “”Always”” is less intense, but has the same successful ingredients of amazing guitar work coupled with a very catchy melodic chorus and strong lyrics. “”Thanks for the Ride”” is a quirky upbeat song about a vibrator, and there is a short but impressive electric guitar solo at the end. The rest of the songs, with the exception of “”Drive Away”” and “”Glitter,”” get repetitive and the intensity can get tiring. The repetition of these songs is mitigated by their short lengths. Johnsson explains, “”Basically, we make music for people with Attention Deficit Disorder and we’re eager to accept blame for attempting to resurrect the glory days of arena rock.”” Blame? I think not. — Helen Pang, Contributing Writer ...

Five for Five is not a bad deal

Five is the goal. Reach deep into your pocket and feel inside for any loose change. Unfurl your wallet and pull out some bills. When the five dollars are in your palm, you also have a chance to see five live UCSD Theatre and Dance productions throughout the 2001-02 season. Theatre and Dance Chair Walton Jones developed the Five for Five program three years ago. The program enables UCSD students to attend five productions for $5, which is $23 off the student price. For a dollar a night, students will be on their way to becoming regular theatre-goers, according to Promotions Manager Carolyn Passeneau. “”Our theatre is thought provoking, cutting edge theatre,”” Passeneau said. “”We are not fluff. The productions we put on are very academic.”” She attributes the Five for Five program to the department’s passion to wanting to develops students in ways that only theatre can. Theatre is also a way for the “”community to come together and have theatre contribute to a national healing process,”” according to Passeneau. Life’s A Dream will be students’ first opportunity to see a play as part of Five for Five. Students can catch this production of a Spanish Golden Age classic with a contemporary pop twist on a chance meeting of a prince and abandoned women. Written by Pedro Calderon de la Barca and directed by Suzanne Agins, it will be performed in the Mandell Weiss Forum from Nov. 15-24. Other shows are The Duchess Malfi, An Evening of Dance, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a winter guest artists’ event that will be shown throughout the year. The shows were chosen so UCSD could attend the theatre and see an exciting production that will have students coming back for more. “”You get to see new things in out department,”” Passeneau said. “”We take risks and are very concerned with what is good theatre.”” Purchase the tickets at Galbraith Hall, room 202. Tickets are available from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. until Oct. 22. Each year the program grows, and the department is willing to accommodate those who want to buy tickets and will stay late if a line develops, but Passeneau advises getting tickets early. “”We anticipate about 1,000 people to take part in this,”” she said. “”But the department wants everyone on this campus to be involved in this exciting season.”” Further information about dates, schedules and other events and shows can be found at the Theatre and Dance Department’s Web page at http://theatre.ucsd.edu ...

Q&A Interview with an Ant

Alien Ant Farm was able to entertain a packed house at this year’s FallFest with their hit single, “”Smooth Criminal.”” Lindsay Boyd of the UCSD Guardian was able to catch up with the drummer, Mike Cosgrove. LB: So how did you guys like FallFest? MC: It was cool. It was a lot of fun. I was surprised that that many people were there. San Diego was like a difficult place for us. We were out there and we did shows but we never really broke into there. We had done some shows at ‘Canes and all that, so it was a really good feeling to come in and have such a good show there. LB: So where on the road is the band now? MC: We’re actually in Boise; we’re taking the day off between Vancouver and Denver. It’s pretty mellow. I’ve only been here once. We played the Warped Tour, here and we had cool show it was fun. We’re about to go run around the mall and see what it has to offer. LB: So is this your first headlining tour? MC: Yeah. We’ve been doing a whole bunch of support. We did support for Linkin Park and Tap Root, Orgy, Papa Roach and Snap Case. It’s a lot of fun. We got a [support] band called Dredg. LB: What is different between touring now and touring when you guys first started out? MC: Well, we really didn’t tour four years ago. We did some smaller tours. We did one like two years ago in Europe. But now we’re taken care of a little bit better. Everything we were doing before was really ghetto, just vans and shit . . . now we get cool meal tickets. LB: So Alien Ant Farm played the infamous Reading Festival this past summer. How was that? MC: It was really cool. Those festivals like Reading, Leeds, Gig on the Green in Scotland are all like really big. It was cool we got to play with a bunch of cool bands and see how the English do it . . . The fans over there, they just kind of receive you better. LB: So has the rock world been affected by the recent bombings in Afghanistan? Does that affect you out on the road at all? MC: Yeah, it’s affected a lot of things. There’s a lot of song titles that are too much for these quote sensitive times. I’m sure “”Drowning Pool With Bodies at the Floor”” isn’t doing too well right now. LB: What would you say is the highlight of your band’s rise to fame so far? MC: Seeing our families proud. I don’t know, I would say just meeting a lot of different heroes. I got to meet Danny Carey, he’s the drummer for Tool and 311. We got to play with on the Warped tour and we were big fans of them and now we’re good friends. That kind of stuff. You go from being a kid, totally being a fan, wondering how they do what they do, to being their friend and getting lessons from them. LB: Were you worried at all about becoming too popular off of the cover of “”Smooth Criminal””? MC: Yeah, it’s one of those things, we don’t want to release it at the top of our record. We actually had ideally planned on doing it at the end of the record cycle to maybe where it would carry us over to the next record, and radio, pretty much, took and did what it did and there’s nothing you can do. I don’t know, I’m not worried about it. I think we’re all secure in our repertoire. We chose to do [the song] … I think our crowds are digging every song, they sing along to all the songs. I don’t think we’re always going to be having singles that are going to reach that great of success, but we never planned on being a number one band like that, we just want to be able to keep our head above water on tour and do what we love. LB: Have you guys been writing songs or working on the next album? MC: We got some recording gear on the road and we’re just settling into this tour. As we’ve been on the other tours we haven’t been fortunate enough to take advantage of the times because we’ve been in a crappy busses or over in Europe. Now we have a nice bus and this recording gear, so we’re going to start taking advantage of it. But we’re still planning to tour for the next year … and we have a lot of old material that we totally want to bring back … there’s tons to be done. LB: So, do you know any good drummer jokes? MC: NO! Besides myself (laughs). LB: I had to ask. ...

hiatus calendar

10/27 Thursday The SUICIDE MACHINES will perform at ‘Canes Bar & Grill. They have been building a solid following since their 1996 debut, “”Destruction by Definition.”” The performance will start at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $12. 10/28 Friday Here is one from the days of hard-rocking bands like Sonic Youth: BLONDE REDHEAD will be at the Belly Up Tavern backing their most recent effort, “”Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons.”” They will be supported by THE NEED. The show starts at 9:15 p.m. and tickets are $10. Minimalism? Jazz? Raga? All in one place? Yes, TERRY RILEY, GEORGE BROOKS and KRISHNA BHATT will be at the Spruce Street Forum to supply the tunes for adventurous ears. They will perform at 8 p.m. and tickets are $15 for students. Call (619) 296-0301 for reservations. 10/29 Saturday You can get funked up with DEEP BANANA BLACKOUT at the Belly Up Tavern. DBB have developed a strong following on the East Coast and are looking to break ground here on the West Coast with their P-Funk, funk-jam sound. Tickets are $10 and the show starts at 9:15 p.m. Fred Anderson, Hamid Drake and Tatsu Aoki make up the improvisational jazz trio from Chicago. They have decades of experience and they will be showcasing their talent at the Spruce Street Forum. The show starts at 8 p.m. and student tickets are $15. To make reservations call (619) 295-0301. 10/30 Sunday There’ll definitely be a huge sound coming from ‘Canes Bar & Grill at 7:30 p.m. The JON SPENCER BLUES EXPLOSION will be rocking the joint for $15. 11/1 Wednesday JULIO IGLESIAS is the original Latin lover, and young kids like Ricky Martin, don’t even stand a chance. IGLESIAS has more than 30 years of Latin pop experience under his belt. His latest release, “”Noche De Cuatro Lunas,”” is distinctively new but still fused with classic IGLESIAS flavor. Tickets start at $46 at the California Center for the Arts in Escondido. The performance starts at 8 p.m. The youngest son of Bob Marley follows in his father’s footsteps. This time, DAMIAN MARLEY is it at 4th & B and is promoting his latest album, “”Halfway Tree.”” Tickets are $18.50 Raw, heavy-guitars round out the sound of the MURDER CITY DEVILS who will be at ‘Canes Bar & Grill at 8 p.m. Tickets are $10 and BOTCH and AMERICAN STEEL are the support bands. 10/31 Thursday Check out some New Orleans jazz by the DIRTY DOZEN BRASS BAND at the Belly Up Tavern. They will be promoting their latest release, “”Buck Jump”” and their show starts at 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $10. — Compiled by Joseph Lee ...

Film Review: Searching for a few good and funny 'Bandits'

arry Levinson’s latest flick is a hit-and-miss romantic comedy that follows the story of two bank robbers and the woman they love as they make their way through Oregon and California, leaving a trail of money, stolen cars and an adoring public in their wake. “”Bandits”” follows Joe Blake (Bruce Willis) and Terry Collins (Billy Bob Thornton) from a daring prison escape in Oregon all the way down the West Coast. The duo brings a unique approach to robbing banks that proves to be very efficient. The two fugitives quickly recruit Harvey Pollard (Troy Garity), Blake’s dimwitted cousin and an aspiring stuntman, as their wheelman. Things are going well for the crew until Collins has a run-in with Kate Wheeler (Cate Blanchett). Wheeler joins the team, adding controversy and an interesting love story on the side. She must choose between Blake, the irresistible tough guy, and Collins, the sweet and sensitive type. The movie’s comedic element kicks into overdrive as the two fight for her affection. Levinson is a proven director who has an Academy Award to prove it. He won the award for Best Director for “”Rainman”” in 1988. He is also no stranger to comedy. Levinson won critical acclaim with his direction of “”Good Morning, Vietnam.”” His comedic style is unique in that it focuses on a sense of reality and relies on the humor of the actual moment instead of relying on the actor overplaying it for laughs. That approach is followed in this movie and works very well. Thornton’s performance as a neurotic hypochondriac is the saving grace of this movie. His comedic timing is very good; he saves a script that is slow at times and very predictable. It is a very solid role for him. Willis is simply average as the tough guy with a heart. He has his funny moments, but they are few in number. Blanchett does a nice job in her role as the bored housewife looking for adventure. She also has a few funny moments in the movie. Garity is surprisingly funny as the village idiot. His character is the only one who really shoots for overt comedy, with the exception of a few scenes from Thornton. The cinematography is above average in this movie. There are some beautiful shots that capture some of the brilliant scenery in which the film was shot. Two-time Academy Award nominee Dante Spinotti (“”L.A. Confidential,”” “”The Insider””) was in charge of the cinematography. “”Bandits”” is a fun movie, but poorly written. It drags at times, but is saved by some solid performances and definite comedy. For those simply looking for a good laugh and some relaxing entertainment, this movie is one that should be on the list. However, if those looking for a solid plot and Oscar-worthy performances should really look elsewhere. ...

Film Review: 'Corky Romano' has few redeeming laughs

hris Kattan doing an improvisation to Britney Spears’ “”Oops … I did it Again”” as an audition to perform with the wannabe diva herself: hilarious. Chris Kattan pestering a member of *NSync at the Teen Choice Awards: a good laugh. Chris Kattan as a veterinarian assistant turned FBI special agent for his new film “”Corky Romano””: ehhh. In his solo film debut, Kattan is the overzealous Corky Romano, whose life revolves around his snazzy yellow Miata and patching up canaries. That is, until he’s called out of the vet business to infiltrate the FBI in order to retrieve incriminating evidence against his father, mafioso “”Pops”” Romano. Soon after Corky joins the brotherhood, the plot becomes as spastic as Kattan himself. Assigned to a special task force in search of serial killer “”Night Vulture,”” who has a flair for cracking nuts, Corky becomes caught between family and FBI loyalty — an interesting dilemma. As the search for the villainous “”Night Vulture”” continues and the swipe-card to the evidence room gives Kattan trouble, we begin to wonder if we should even care. The fundamental problem of “”Corky Romano”” is that it’s too much at once. It seems as though Kattan knew he had more than two minutes to exercise our funny bones, so he decided to hit us with everything in the comedic book, from the cheesy love story to giving CPR to a dog to straining to pass gas just for the fart gag. And in case that wasn’t enough, we also get a car chase, a fight with a vertically challenged bouncer a la “”Matrix”” and a shocking experience with some neo-Nazi heroin addicts, all of which give Kattan an opportunity to talk to his crotch (don’t ask). But please, Kattan is no Jim Carrey. Instead of at least adopting a slicing verbal wit, he relies on a flashy smile. Great, so he’s a nice guy. Yet regardless of any good intentions, his constant pastel-shaded aura and his ability to turn the FBI into the “”groovy tie squad”” is just irritating. However, Kattan redeems himself in a sequence involving a bag of cocaine, a police dog and a room of wide-eyed school kids. Yet for the rest of the movie, we have to be content with spotting the original Shaft (Richard Roundtree), who seems to have gone institutionally legit as the FBI director. Vincent Pastore, better known as Big Pussy on HBO’s hit series “”The Sopranos,”” provides us with the only true Mafia moment as Corky’s replacement in the vet clinic. All in all, “”Corky Romano”” is probably only worth the time it’ll take to download it off the Internet. ...

Dredg play the independent path

redg is lost somewhere on campus loop. Apparently no one told them where they’re playing or how to get there. “”We’re on North Torrey Pines,”” their manager John tells me. “”I’m passing the Muir apartment buildings.”” I tell him he is going the right way. They are trying to find the Price Center, where they’re scheduled to play the daytime portion of FallFest. As I try to guide them via cell phone around campus loop, I pray that they eventually reach an information booth. When their caravan does pull up, out walks the band. I apologize for my failed attempt as a tour guide while they introduce themselves: “”Mark,”” “”Dino,”” “”Gavin”” and “”Drew,”” in a fashion very reminiscent of The Doors getting out of their airplane. Formed in Los Gatos, Calif., the Dredg story is not unlike that of most bands. Four high school friends who grew up listening to the Misfits and Sepultura, among other things, loved playing together and eventually got a record deal. However, in listening to Dredg’s album, “”Leitmotif,”” you will realize they are not like every other band. When you pop in their album, you won’t hear the same hard rock that has been coming out of your speakers for the last four years. Hints of Radiohead and Pink Floyd are there, but the best way to describe Dredg’s sound is to say that it sounds like Dredg. You should just get the album. When you open up the CD jacket you will not find pictures of the band or song lyrics, but rather the story of a person’s journey. “”There’s a character who travels and [the album] follows his travels,”” Mark says. At the band’s Web site, http://www.dredg.com, you won’t find publicity photos but rather a collection of Drew’s paintings. “”Its just not really in our people to go out and pose for pictures,”” explains lead singer Gavin. Not since Nirvana has a band deviated from the tried-and-true formula of the record industry publicity machine. Most musicians might tell you they’re “”all for the nookie,”” but Dredg appears to really care about music as an art form. “”We just like doing music — we never really thought about the lifestyle as an influence to make music,”” said Dino. A recent Hollywood Reporter article pegged them as the new young guns of progressive rock — a title they shun. “”Labels are labels,”” Mark says. “”I think the only reason that the label is put on there is because we don’t follow normal structures.”” The independently recorded album “”Leitmotif,”” which has been re-released by Interscope, certainly did not follow the normal structure. Their upcoming major label release, due in early 2002, will definitely be one to watch for. ...

Looking at Bob Dylan: the man of the hour

Most of us know Bob Dylan through black and white 1960s camera footage as a harmonica-toting, bushy-haired youngster with a drone to his voice. We also know that he became one of the most distinctive and poetic forces in the history of American popular music. His 1963 debut album, “”The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan,”” containing famous folk anthems such as “”Blowin’ in the Wind”” and “”A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall,”” broke new ground in the music industry. He then released his 1965 album, “”Bring It All Back Home,”” daring to introduce the electric guitar into the folk music realm. However, this transition from folk troubador to rock connoisseur was not a smooth one. Dylan was famously booed off stage when he performed with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band at the 1965 New Port Folk Festival. Dylan capped off the ’60s with the album “”Highway 61 Revisited,”” which included the famous “”Like a Rolling Stone.”” The 1970s proved more turbulent as he battled a floundering marriage and was involved in a near-fatal motorcycle accident. After the crash, he retired to his home in Woodstock, N.Y. and later released “”Nashville Skyline,”” which was a far cry from the material he had released a decade earlier. In the late 1970s, he tried his hand at film and released one of the most covered songs in the history of rock ‘n roll: “”Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door.”” Then in 1983, he released “”Infidels,”” co-produced by Dire Straits’ frontman Mark Knopfler, which proved to be a success with Knopfler’s graceful guitar tracks. In 1997, while on tour in Europe to promote his album “”Time Out of Mind,”” he literally knocked on heaven’s door. On the eve of the tour he was hospitalized with histoplasmosis, a potentially fatal infection that causes swelling in the sac surrounding the heart. Luckily, he was able to continue touring after a few months and even played in Rome upon Pope John Paul II’s request. In 1998, he became one of five recipients of the Kennedy Center Honors, this country’s highest award for artistic excellence. Now he comes to us with his new release, “”Love and Theft,”” looking like the leader of a ’30s band with a pin-line mustache. He is also currently working on an autobiography titled “”Chronicle”” and launching a tour for “”Love and Theft.”” ...

Jack Johnson plays amazing show at USD

Jack Johnson played to a sold out crowd Saturday at the Jenny Craig Pavilion at the University of San Diego. Glen Phillips, the former lead singer of Toad The Wet Sprocket, opened the show for Jack with an energetic solo acoustic set. Tyler Huff Guardian Johnson, who grew up on the North Shore of Hawaii, has been making award-winning surf films for years, but has only recently been recognized for his musical talent. Four months ago, Jack opened for Ben Harper at a Memorial Day show at RIMAC field. Since then, Johnson has successfully headlined numerous shows. The night included a screening of Johnson’s latest surf film project, “”The September Sessions.”” The award-winning film played in between Phillips’ and Johnson’s performances. Johnson, who was joined by Merlo on the bass and Adam Topol on the drums, played an unforgettable set with the audience singing and dancing for much of the show. ...