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STARTUP.COM Directed by Jehane Noujaim and Chris Hegedus Once upon a bubble, a couple of high school buddies, smooth Kaleil and nerdy Tom, started a business called govWorks.com. Their good idea was to end infuriating lines at places like the motor-vehicle offices by letting us pay routine fines and fees via the Internet. The company attracted giddy amounts of venture capital, employed 200 people at its height and went belly up inside of two years. This gripping documentary doesn't exactly say what went wrong, but the pain and puzzlement of its principals as things inexorably fall apart is palpable and saddening.
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BALLADS: REMEMBERING JOHN COLTRANE Karrin Allyson Some great ideas are so obvious that nobody thinks to carry them out. Songbird Karrin Allyson, for example, is the first jazz vocalist ever to record a CD devoted to the songs performed by master saxophonist John Coltrane on Ballads, his classic 1961 album. Hers is a deliciously moody collection of still-fresh standards like It's Easy to Remember, in which Allyson's slender, sunny voice is dappled with dark shadows of rue. Perfect for late-night listening, with or without a like-minded companion.
THE INVISIBLE BAND Travis The band hails from rainy Glasgow, but the blueprint for this album is Neil Young's 1972 Harvest, that guide to sun-drenched California soul-searching with Heart of Gold on it. Fortunately, layers of spaced-out guitars and the occasional well-placed synthesizer track remind us that this is a contemporary U.K. band, so none of the songs sound retro or slavishly derivative. There's a college audience thirsty for modern variations on the soft sound Young pioneered, and these lads, along with fellow Scots Belle and Sebastian, have the songwriting talent to deliver the goods.
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BILL MOYERS REPORTS: EARTH ON EDGE PBS, June 19, 8 p.m. E.T. This special is nominally about the ecosphere; it's really, if obliquely, about money. Moyers travels the globe, linking dwindling Asian steppes and Brazilian reefs to the health of mankind. It's unabashed advocacy journalism but comprehensive; the recurring theme is the economic interests of multinationals and native laborers, of developing nations and Chilean-sea-bass-eating viewers. Moyers only hints at overall solutions (and their costs), focusing on individual conservation successes, but the ecological truism that we're all connected rarely gets such a broad, God's-eye treatment.
SPYDER GAMES MTV, weekdays, 7 p.m. E.T. This soap, set within a video-game empire, aims to remake the genre for young 'uns by borrowing from the telenovela (telling one story, a murder whodunit, over 65 episodes) and Kevin Williamson's Scream (loading up on winking meta-references). The story moves a touch faster than most network soaps, and there are a few laughs--some of them intentional--but MTV could have gone further. NBC's soapernatural Passions is more innovative than Spyder Games' familiar sex-and-business setup; and the cheap production values are strictly daytime.