Fresh and funky, female and Japanese, the trip-hop/rap duo Cibo Matto has been the recipient of a lot of hype. Fortunately, it's well-founded; all trendiness aside, Viva! La Woman is an innovative and catchy mix of eclectic samples and stream-of-consciousness lyrics. The likes of Paul Weller, Ennio Morricone, and Duke Ellington combine with observations like "My weight is three hundred pounds/My favorite is beef jerky" (from "Beef Jerky") and "Shut up and eat! You know my love is sweet!" from ("Birthday Cake") in a fun and refreshing way. The tone of the album varies with each song; on tracks like "Sugar Water" and "Artichoke," Cibo Matto plays it spooky and ethereal, while "Birthday Cake" and the single "Know Your Chicken" find them as a couple of cryptic Beastie Girls, tossing off wacky non sequiturs over found soundscapes. Cibo Matto cooks up a tasty appetizer of their talent with Viva! La Woman.
Granted, the four separate versions of Viva! La Woman's sublime "Sugar Water" are unnecessary, but the rest of the material on Cibo Matto's follow-up EP Super Relax is superb. No longer relying solely on Yuka Honda's slice-and-dice samples, the duo's sound is considerably more organic this time out; "Spoon" locks into an infectious groove worthy of Luscious Jackson, while the live "BBQ" is breathlessly manic. The highlights, however, are the two covers: the first, a rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Aguas de Marco" (also found on the benefit LP Red Hot and Latin) opens up a vast new global playground of exotic textures and rhythms for the group to romp around in, while their exemplary take on the Stones' "Sing This All Together" proves Honda and vocalist Miho Hatori are equally capable of tackling straightforward rock and roll.
Self-involved corporate raider Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) has recently split up with his girlfriend. Seeking directions to the Beverly Hills Hotel, he makes the acquaintance of free-spirited hooker Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) and decides to put her on a 3,000-dollar retainer as his "date." He Cinderellarizes her by bankrolling a full wardrobe and cosmetic makeover. Of course, the setup will be strictly platonic. A disarming modern-day fairy tale, Pretty Woman was the picture that made Julia Roberts a superstar. As charming as she is in her "giggling" sequences, Roberts' best scene is her triumphant return to a posh Rodeo Drive shop where she'd been previously snubbed. Keeping Pretty Woman afloat throughout is the buoyant direction of Garry Marshall and the always welcome presence of Marshall's stock company of actors, including Hector Elizondo as a stuffy but golden-hearted concierge. Pretty Woman began its life as a much darker story of prostitutes and homicidal drug dealers, but more box-office-savvy heads ultimately prevailed.