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Pearl Jam Closes Down Philadelphia's Spectrum Tonight


After 42 years, Philadelphia's famed Spectrum arena will be demolished later this year to make room for a new entertainment complex. Sports teams the 76ers and Flyers have long moved over to a sister venue, but a lot of bands decided to make stops at the Spectrum over the past several months to say goodbye. The Dead, who played the Spectrum more than any other band (50+ times), visited this spring. And another frequent guest, Bruce Springsteen, played four sold-out shows earlier this month. But it's Pearl Jam who will close the Spectrum down tonight with the last of its four concerts this week.

Eddie Vedder was quoted this week as saying he'd be happy to play until 2am tonight -- but will the venue allow it? I hope so! There are also a ton of internet rumors about special guests tonight including Billy Joel, Elton John and Bono -- but the most believable is Bruce Springsteen.

And all the concert fun happens tonight while the Phillies are playing in the World Series across the street. Quite a memorable Halloween here in Philadelphia.

To learn more about the Spectrum's history, click here and view the video below. This highlight reel has been opening each of the Pearl Jam shows this week. And one final note -- don't forget to check back here Monday for my review of the final concert in the weekly MusicMonday column.

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MusicMonday: Jack Johnson, U2, More Free Downloads!


Jack Johnson Video


Jack Johnson’s En Concert, the new CD/DVD that hits stores tomorrow, captures the surfer/singer-songwriter on his "Sleep Through Static" tour in Europe last summer, shot through the lens of director Emmett Malloy and featuring guest appearances from the likes of Eddie Vedder, Neil Halstead, Matt Costa and Ben Harper. Entertainment Weekly has an exclusive video of Johnson performing “Gone” here.

U2 Concert Webcast

A U2 concert from the Rose Bowl was streamed online free last night via YouTube. The quality of the stream was amazing -- and the band sounded great. The site promises to rebroadcast the concert -- part of the group's 360 tour. So keep checking the band's page here if you missed the global event last night.

Free Downloads

Every Monday, you can find free music downloads here. This week's new offerings:

  • Spin Magazine and Rhapsody bring you 15 free downloads here.
  • Suburban Home Records has even more -- 20 free downloads here.
  • Country Weekly has free songs for download -- but act fast. New songs are only available for two weeks. Click here.
  • Glade is offering free holiday music downloads from Diane Krall, George Strait, Manheim Steamroller and Julianne Hough here. You'll need some product codes to get the freebies -- but luckily you can find those here.
  • Trans-Siberian Orchestra has made its new song "Child of the Night" available for free download here.
  • Speaking of children, the site Munchkin.com has over 50 Mozart classics geared toward babies and toddlers available for free download here.
And don't forget to continually check the following sources for more free downloads -- new songs covering all genres are added frequently. Just click on the links below and enjoy some new tunes.

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Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office



Notes:

  • Reviews of some movies in top 10 can be found here.
  • Click on the chart to enlarge.
  • Fox Searchlight’s Amelia placed #11 in grossing an estimated $4 million on only 818 screens for a solid screen average of $4,921 -- on the strength of older women.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Actual figures are released on Monday.
    Sources: Nielsen EDI, ew.com, Variety

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Movie Review: Does "Amelia" Soar?


Amelia


Directed by Mira Nair (The Namesake, Monsoon Wedding), Amelia covers the life of legendary aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart (played by two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank). Once again, Swank proves to be an amazing actress by totally immersing herself in the role -- she truly soars. Unfortunately, the script doesn't match her quality. With the feel of a Lifetime TV movie, the film never really gets off the ground -- but it's saved from a total crash and burn with fine performances by Swank and co-star Richard Gere as Earhart's husband, publisher George Putnam.

I'll admit that I learned a bit about Earhart that I didn't know (or at least forgot from my history classes). Her 1928 flight across the Atlantic was heralded around the world for being the first by a female aviator -- but she was merely a glorified passenger. Her career had its ups and downs -- with failures mixed in with the celebrity glory. And besides her marriage, Earhart also carried on a long-time affair with fellow aviation pioneer Gene Vidal (Ewan MacGregor). For the most part, neither love feels authentic on screen -- as both are pretty glossed over. The biggest mis-step is that the script fails to explain how such an incredible woman -- so advanced in her independent thinking -- came to be. We learn very little of her childhood, upbringing or early adult years that molded her.

But all is not totally lost. Even though we know the outcome of Earhart's 1937 mission to fly around the world, Nair keeps us interested in playing it out. You'll feel some tense action as Earhart and her navigator lose sight of their goal. As with the earlier flight scenes, you actually feel like you're up in the air with them. Sadly, although a few clues are given for their disappearance, it seems we'll never truly get the answers to one of the biggest mysteries of all time. But another mystery is why Academy Award winning screenwriter Ron Bass (Rain Man) keeps us guessing on what drove Earhart's independent spirit. [Rated PG; opens today]

Grade: B-

Note:
  • Click here for an alphabetical archive of all movie reviews.

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Play the Balloon Boy Game!

So the whole thing was a hoax after all. How much taxpayer money can one family waste? Well they sure had fun with us -- so it's time we turn the tables on them. Click on the game below and enjoy!



Instructions: Use the arrow keys (or W, A, S & D) to move the balloon and use the mouse to aim and shoot the rainbows!













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MusicMonday: Downloads from all Genres


Download Free Music


Every Monday, you can find free music downloads here. This week's new offerings:

  • What goes well with wine? Well classical music, of course. Click here for a classical sampler from Green Hill.
  • Is country your thing? Well you're in luck because People Magazine has 10 free songs in the genre. Click the image above to download.
  • And one more country song from artist Ashley Ray can be downloaded for free here.

And don't forget to continually check the following sources for more free downloads -- new songs covering all genres are added frequently. Just click on the links below and enjoy some new tunes.

Watch Whitney Houston on X Factor

Once again, UK's X Factor had the weekend's most talked about music performance when Whitney Houston paid a visit to the hit show. The performance marked Houston's first television appearance in the country in 12 years. She sang "Million Dollar Bill" from her new album -- which was released in the UK today. Some in Twitterland commented that she may have looked a bit "drugged out" again -- but most of the chatter was about her wardrobe malfunction. Take a look at the performance here.

Take the Poll on Michael Jackson's New Song

Today is the last day to vote in the (not-so-popular poll) at upper left. What do you think of the new Michael Jackson song, "This is It" -- co-written by Paul Anka? You can listen to the title song here. Then please vote in the poll.

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Top 10 at the Weekend Box Office



Notes:

  • Reviews of some movies in top 10 can be found here. And although the 3-D versions of Toy Story and Toy Story 2 have not be screened, the originals both receive A grades.
  • Click on the chart to enlarge.
  • All figures are industry estimates. Actual figures are released on Monday.
  • Sources: Nielsen EDI, ew.com, Paramount Pictures

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Movie Review: A Classic Children's Book Comes to Life


Where the Wild Things Are


Based on the classic 1963 children's book by Maurice Sendak, the film version of Where the Wild Things Are had to expand upon the story -- which in its original format is only ten sentences long. Director/co-writer Spike Jonez (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) does a good job bringing an enhanced story to life -- it's visually a treat to behold.

Max (Max Records from The Brothers Bloom), a rambunctious and sensitive boy from a broken home, feels misunderstood and runs away from his mother (Catherine Keener). With a vivid imagination, he sets sail and lands on an island where he meets mysterious and strange creatures whose emotions are as wild and unpredictable as their actions. The Wild Things desperately long for a leader to guide them, just as Max longs for a kingdom to rule. When Max is crowned king, he promises to create a place where everyone will be happy. But Max soon finds that ruling his kingdom is not so easy and that relationships prove to be more complicated than he originally thought.

The Wild Things are truly the stars of the film. The costumes and CGI work are amazing -- and the voice cast is near perfection. Past HBO stars James Gandolfini (The Sopranos) and Lauren Ambrose (Six Feet Under) are joined by Catherine O'Hara, Forrest Whitaker and Paul Dano. All are excellent, but Gandolfini (The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3) is especially revealing as the complex Carol.

Co-written by David Eggers, the film is not perfect. The writing falls a bit short at times -- especially when Max abruptly departs from the island and returns home. And I'm still scratching my head at earlier scenes in the non-fantasy portion -- where it's winter one moment followed shortly by Max running away -- with no snow on the ground, but summer trees in full bloom lining the street. Why would Jonez pay so much attention to detail elsewhere, but make such a bewildering mistake in continuity there? Not the masterpiece I had hoped for, but still an enjoyable film. A final note: think twice about bringing the smaller kids -- it's a bit too dark and angry for them. [Rated PG; opens today]

Grade: B


Note:

  • Click here for an alphabetical archive of all movie reviews.

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Movie Reviews: Travel Back to the '60s and '70s


A Serious Man

The latest film written, produced, and directed by Oscar winners Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men, Fargo) is being billed as a dark comedy. And although there are funny moments, this movie set in 1967 is a serious drama. Michael Stuhlbarg (Cold Souls) plays Larry Gopnik, a physics professor at a Minnesota university who suddenly has his world falling in around him -- and he cannot seem to catch a break. His chance at obtaining tenure seems shaky at best. A student is bribing him for a passing grade. His crazy brother is crashing on his couch. A next door neighbor is clearly unstable. His wife leaves him for an annoying acquaintance. His kids don't give him the time of day -- a son who cares more about F-Troop and Jefferson Airplane than preparing for his bar mitzvah. A daughter who cares more about her hair and nose than her parents' failing marriage. How much can one man take?

Heeding the advice of his Jewish community, he seeks understanding for his hardships from a number of rabbis. But what he learns is that there are no answers. Even when his son gets simple advice from the elder rabbi to "be a good boy," we get the feeling that even being good does not guarantee that life will return the favor.

The acting by all is top-notch. But this is not an easy movie to sit through -- it's pretty painful to watch someone get beaten down over and over. And once again, the Coens like to drive us crazy with an abrupt ending that leaves remaining questions. But don't be scared away by those who say that only Jewish audience will "get it." I am not -- and I get that it's another powerful film from the talented brothers. Co-stars Richard Kind and Adam Arkin. [Rated R; opens wider today]


Grade: B+



Black Dynamite

Director/screenwriter Scott Sanders brings us the latest in film satire -- a spoof of blaxploitation films of the 1970s. Set during the Nixon administration, Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White), a former CIA agent, is called back into action when the Italian mob kills his brother, fills black orphanages with heroin, and floods the street with bad malt liquor. And eventually we find out it's all a big conspiracy.

Martial artist White is perfectly cast in the lead role as a kick-ass agent. And Sanders succeeds in recreating the look and feel of the era. It's a trip to revisit the fashion -- and overall cheesy styling of the day. But even though the whole idea was to recreate that look, the low-budget feel grows thin fast. If it wasn't for the bare body parts (and yes, you'll see enough), the movie would be better suited for the small screen.

Arsenio Hall's return to film -- as a pimp -- is a letdown of a brief, unfunny cameo. And overall, the film suffers from far too few funny scenes. White, who co-wrote the screenplay, previously worked with Sanders in 1998's Thick as Thieves, an HBO feature. This time around, I recommend you wait for the film's video release rather than plopping down hard-earned cash now for only a mildly amusing film. [Rated R; opens today]

Grade: C+


Notes:

  • Michael Jai White and Scott Sanders were in attendance at my screening -- and generously answered questions from the audience. White has a whopping seven black belts -- so you don't want to show him this review -- thanks.
  • Click here for an alphabetical archive of all movie reviews.

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MusicMonday: Robbie Williams, Michael Jackson and FREE Downloads!


Robbie Williams on X Factor

One of the hottest shows in the UK is X Factor, an Idol-like competition show with bands instead of individuals. Simon Cowell is negotiating hard to bring the U.S. its own version of the show -- in an attempt to recreate the success that Idol met when it crossed the pond. Until then, we only get Twitter buzz here -- and this past weekend, there was quite the buzz when guest Robbie Williams peformed his latest single, "Bodies." Williams is a mystery -- such a huge star in the UK, who never met the same success here. Odd -- because he has all the makings of a huge pop star. Click the video screen above to see his performance -- and if you get the error message, just click on the video screen again and it will transport you to YouTube to view.

Michael Jackson's New Song

The king of pop's last song, "This Is It," premiered on his site at midnight. The album of the same name is being released worldwide October 26-27. You can listen to the title song here. Then vote in the poll at left. What do you think?

Free Music Downloads

Every Monday, you can find free music downloads here. Here are this week's new offerings:

  • Urban Outfitters' latest free installment includes 25 tracks; click here to download.
  • StereoGum.com offers has a few free downloads of albums -- including three tribute albums to REM, Radiohead and Iceland's most famous citizen, Bj√∂rk. Click here and then the "free albums" tab on the top menu to download.
  • Former Ghosts is the reverb-soaked, emotionally raw synth project of Freddy Ruppert, Jamie Stewart, and Nika Roza (Zola Jesus). Their debut Fleurs is out 10/20 -- but you can download their single "Unfolding"via StereoGum.com here.

And don't forget to continually check the following sources for more free downloads -- new songs are added frequently. Just click on the links below and enjoy some new tunes.

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