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December 07, 2001 - Image 10

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 2001-12-07

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Friday, December 7, 2001
'Sopranos' makes its bones
with outstanding DVD

ARTS

Fox entertairnient
goes to war with
Classics film trio

By Ryan Blay
Daily Arts Writer
James Gandolfini is the finest method actor
since Brando, and David Chase is God. These

appear to be the
Th~eSopranos:
heComplete
Second Season
DVD
HBO
almost anything
cable - in 2000
James Gandolfini

main points to take away from
the latest release of HBO's
hit mob drama, "The Sopra-
nos."
The extras are pretty
classy, but the real reason to
purchase this DVD is to own
all 13 episodes from the sec-
ond season. While not quite
up to the level established by
the first season, episodes 14-
26 easily were better than
on television - network or
. Its sole win (for best actor
i) out of 18 Emmy nominations

was a sham.
Loyal viewers saw a strong transition from
season one's exposition and developing the

Livia-Tony feud toward Tony's ascension to mob
boss and the problems this entailed. In addition,
Christopher nearly passed into the great Bada
Bing in the sky, while Sal "Big Pussy" Bompen-
siero and Richie Aprile found themselves on the
wrong side of firearms.
After listening to the four director commen-
taries included, it becomes clear just how much
work goes into every episode, from the music
(chosen mostly by creator/writer/producer/iber-
genius Chase) to the brilliant camerawork
steadily revealing Big Pussy's fate. Each direc-
tor praises the show's opening sequence and the
professionalism each actor (especially Gandolfi-
ni) brings to the set. Just when the commen-
taries start blending together and become banal,
they do reveal a few hidden gems. Take, for
instance, the commentary to "Funhouse." Direc-
tor John Patterson notes that during one scene,
hardcore Gandolfini insisted on standing in a
bucket of ice water between takes to make him-
self shiver. In addition, prison vet Tony Sirico
("Paulie Walnuts") became the most seasick of
any actor while
filming Pussy's
murder scene in
the final episode.
Besides these
commentaries
and the obligato-
ry cast and crew
bios, the collec-
tion features two
featurettes. The
first, "The Real
Deal," explains
that "The Sopra-
nos" is, authentic,
and any word
other than genius
would fail to suf-
fice for the most
important TV
show ... ever.
This is a nice
propaganda piece
for the show, but
Courtesy of HBO we're not Emmy
id him? voters, and we

Fox Home Entertainment has
deemed it patriotic to release nine
classic war films on DVD. One can
only assume this is a blatent attempt
to captialize on the national desire

By Lyle Henretty
Daily Arts Editor

urteIsy 0ofIHBO

Fox War
Classics DVD
Collection
HBO

for military
heroes would at
the very least
resurrect a few
gems from the
pantheon of
American clas-
sics. That it

don't need people to tell us the show is well
made. It is nice to see Frank DeCaro ("The
Daily Show") speaking seriously along with
author Nick Pileggi ("Casino," "Wiseguys") as
an expert to the show's significance.
The second featurette is much better, and yet,
is bittersweet because it shows how much more
could have been done for the collection's organi-
zation and presentation. While Gandolfini and
Edie Falco rightfully rave about the script,
Chase and Michael Imperioli astutely note how
Tony serves as an Everyman, allowing the audi-
ence to relate to him. Falco lovingly notes that
"I would have played Paulie Walnuts if they
would have had me." Each cast member appears
to have an idea of what the show is trying to say.
Sadly, not enough time is given to the strong
supporting cast (Sirico, Steven van Zandt,
Dominic Chianese). Chianese has but 10 sec-
onds and is cut off. That is unacceptable.
When watching, I couldn't help but think of
the commentary on "Fight Club," with Edward
Norton and Helena Bonham Carter adding the
actor's perspective. Everything seems to revolve
around Gandolfini, who is notorious for his
preperation (he often makes animal noises to
relieve stress just seconds before takes). And the
show is Chase's brainchild. Why no commentary
from them? Something more here from the
departed cast members or the highly underrated
Lorraine Bracco would have been nice. Still, to
pass on this set would be a mistake.

the earlier, double-disc package that
contained a great deal more than this
film-and-trailer-only version.
A severe lack of any extras runs
rampant throughout the collection.
Most of the films are presented in
wide-screen, and a few of them con-
tain theatrical trailers. Fox ha
brought about an interesting group
of films, but the presentation is
worse than subpar.

does, but sadly, that's all it does.
The films all conspicuously center
on World War II, a war that met with
much approval from Americans. It's
a touch suspicious that Fox chose to
back-peddle over the past 50 years,
skipping over many a controversial
war.
Of interest, though, despite their
haste putting the collection together,
Fox did not simply include propa-
ganda, pro-war films to slide down
the throat of a Republican-led coun-
try. Terrence Malick's 1999 film "A
Thin Red Line," is full of soldiers'
internal struggle set against the
backdrop of the battle of Guadal-
canal. There are stars o'plenty
(including George Clooney, Nick
Noltle, Woody Harrelson and John
Travolta), but it was overshadowed
by the less introspective "Saving
Private Ryan," which came out the
same year.
Also, check out "The Young
Lions" staring Marlon Brando and
Dean Martin. Brando is a sympa-
thetic German soldier and Dino as
an obnoxious American. It's odd
seeing the "bad guys" portrayed as
anything but monsters, and it's no
wonder that this film has slipped
from the public radar.
As the crazy general of all war
movies, "Patton" is possibly the
mascot of the entire collection.
Though for the money, you could get

Why is Tony looking forward when there's Big Pussy behin

-o on the upswing with latest release

Classic Yo-Yo, Yo-Yo Ma; Sony
Classical
By Jim Schiff
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor
If you're not already a fan of clas-
sical music, Yo-Yo Ma's Classic Yo-
Yo may just be the CD that converts
you. Ma, one of the world's most
prolific cellists and performers,
returns to his roots with this latest
release. Featuring a variety -of
Baroque pieces, tangos, waltzes and
some more ambitious cello/vocal
duets, Classic Yo-Yo has the variety
and the musical sensitivity to make
it one of Ma's best.
Few cellists are able to capture
emotion in the way Yo-Yo Ma does
in his music. In performance, he is
characteristically known for swaying-
back and forth with the bowing of
the cello. On this CD, the listener
can picture him doing the same
thing. The first track, Bach's "Pre-
lude from Cello Suite No.1 in G
Major," featured in the opening
titles to the film, "You Can Count
on Me," is one of the most heartfelt

on the disc. The piece is essentially
a series of sixteenth note groupings,
but Ma's rapid, accurate bowings are
executed with a lyricism that tran-
scends the music's limitations.
Ma is able to enthrall the listener
even on the more somber Bach
piece, "Erbarme Dich," from "St.
Matthew Passion." String instru-
ments are particularly prey to a
whiny, strained sound, but Ma's rich
tone is nothing of the sort.
Ma includes a few tangos on
Classic Yo-Yo and you will probably
only enjoy them if you're a tango
fan. His solo work in Piazzolla's
"Libertango" is poetic, but the
accordion backdrop and pulsating
piano in the background becomes
annoying after awhile. The tangos
do, however, add to the international
scope of the disc, which also
includes music from "Crouching
Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and selec-
tions from Gershwin, Faur6 and
Dvorak.
The American-themed tracks are
probably the most listener-friendly.
John Williams' "American Collec-
tion Theme" is an epic, sweeping

piece that provides a :;"
perfect backdrop to .
Ma's solo work.
Though probably
any collaboration
between Williams
and Ma would be
fantastic, the full
orchestral sound and
soaring strings on
"American" are truly
gorgeous.
"Appalachia Waltz,"
a trio with Edgar
Meyer on bass and
Mark O'Connor on
violin, is a model of
balance. With three.
accomplished
soloists such as
these, it's easy for
one artist to domi-
nate the other two.
Instead, Ma fuses superbly with his
peers, fusing together three amazing
string sounds into one.
It's somewhat perplexing that Ma
titled his disc Classic Yo-Yo, when
only a few of the tracks, such as the
Bach and the Brahms, can be con-
sidered "classical."
Instead, Ma includes several mod-
ern-sounding collaborations with
artists such as Bobby McFerrin and
Alison Kraus. Ma, who began his
classical training at age four, has
devoted a great deal of his time to
non-classical music in the past
decade.

Courtesy of Fox Home Entertainment
George C. Scott gives a salute to this
fabulous collection.

0

'Public' loses spark
n its second year

By Jim Schiff
Daily Fine/Performing Arts Editor
If your entire perception of Ameri-
can high schools was based on "Boston
Public," you'd probably want to jump
the border to Canada. The show's
Winslow High is a breeding ground for

"To me, all the different projects I
have done all have great music at
their core -- it doesn't matter to me
whether it's great music from the
Baroque era or great music by Astor
Piazzolla," said Ma, in an interview
included with the compact disc.
"For whatever reason, I don't tend to
segregate music, or anything else
for that matter, into categories.
That's just the way I see the world."
So whether you're a cello afi-
cionado or don't even know what a
cello is, Classic Yo-Yo is definately
worth a listen. There's definately
something for everyone on this disc.

Boston
Public
Grade: C
FOX
Mondays at 8 p.m.
nal, lively ensemble

every teenage
problem imagin-
able. Tune in and
you'll be fed a
steady diet of
bunk sexual
advice, limb dis-
sections, stolen
protheses, drug
problems and
rampant, over-
dramatic bicker-
ing. In its second
year, "Boston
Public" loses its
status as an origi-
drama. The spark

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of last year has instead been replaced
with irrevelant subplots and a general
lack of heart.
It's not the acting that is the problem
this year. On the contrary, the additions
of ex-trekkie bombshell Jeri Ryan and
cult-movie regular Michael Rappaport
are most welcome. Ryan plays Ronnie
Cook, a disillusioned lawyer who
wants to revitalize her spirit with some
high school teaching. Cook's transition
to Winslow is met with resentment but
she is unafraid to make herself both
likable and feared. Ryan not only adds
a much needed sex appeal to the cast,
but also a strong female personality to
clash with the show's males. While the
other female teachers tend to back off
in the presence of authority figures like
Principal Steven Harper (Chi
McBride), Ryan's Tomb Raider boobs

and no-nonsense attitude are a force to
be reckoned with.
Last year's cliffhanger erupted inti
this year's irritating subplot. We find
out that student Jeremy Peters locked
his mother, Meredith (Kathy Baker), in
the basement to retaliate against many
years of her fascist parenting. Instead
of leaving the story alone (which prob-
ably would have been the more savory
option), the show's writers opted to
bring Mrs. Peters in as a recurring
character. Every week we get an
unhealthy dose of this creepy woman
and her larger-than-life prostheti
hook.
Rather than the sentimental, realistic
portrayals of student/teacher relation-
ships from the first season, "Boston
Public" is drenched in petty arguing
and genuine gross outs. Why do we
have to see close-ups of Mrs. Peters
caressing the face of Assistant Princi-
pal Scott Guber (Anthony Heald) with
that metal contraption? And why do we
have to witness a funeral for Mrs
Peters' beloved right extremity?
Either the writers are stretching to
find material or they find the
Guber/Peters relationship a saccharine
love story. I don't buy it. Guber, Harp-
er, and Mrs. Peters seem to be domi-
nanting the show, but I'd rather see
more from Winslow's more developed
characters, such as teacher Harry Sen-
ate (Nicky Katt). McBride's Principal
Harper has become such a one-note
tyrant that his angry diatribes hav
become stale.
"Boston Public" is so conflict-filled
that we we wonder if there's any hard-
working, mentally sound students at
Winslow High. And the one who we
thought had two feet on the ground,
Jeremy Peters, turned out to be a total
whack job with an axe to grind.
So if you want to spend your Mon-
day nights watching a soap opera that
just happens to take place in a higl
school, then tune into "Boston Public."
But if you'd rather watch an engross-
ing, thoughtful drama, then you'd best
get your education elsewhere.
UAi

m

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