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June 25, 2005 - Image 10

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Publication:
Michigan Daily Summer Weekly, 2005-06-25

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10 - The Michigan Daily - Monday, July 25, 2005

'Prince' continues
Potter's dark turn

Mob hit still dazzes
in its fifth season
By Doug Wernert qv
Daily Arts Editor

By Imran Syed
Daily Arts Writer
With the exception of 2002's
"Order. of the Phoenix," a slight
hiccup in quality for the Harry Pot-
ter series, J.K. Rowling's seven-part
arc about a boy
wizard's battle
to vanquish evil Harry Potter
has been the rare and the Half-
artistic steamroll- Blood Prince
er: both infectious By J.K. Rowling
and surprisingly Scholastic
enduring. Sowith-
out further adieu,
we can safely say that "Harry Potter
and the Half-Blood Prince" lives up
to the significant expectations of mil-
lions of fans, and might just be the
best book in the series so far.
There has been much talk lead-
ing up to the book's release that this
addition to the series is darker than
any other Potter book. Certainly the
grim tone is set early on. We find out
many important and powerful witch-
es and wizards have been killed as
the fight against the Dark Lord
Voldemort has gradually broken
into open war. At Hogwarts School,
several students receive the dreaded
news that a family member has been
murdered, and there are rumors of
a dark plot to infiltrate and capture
the school.
Yet even in the darkest of wars, in
the bleakest of times - as the book's

jacket says - life goes on. Indeed,
whether following the hilarious mis-
haps of adolescent wizards in love
for the first time or gaining vital
insights into the life of a young Lord
Voldemort, the reader is lulled into
a false sense of security, one that
comes crashing down in the final
few chapters. It's hard to believe
that this late in the series, when
we already know so much, Rowl-
ing is able to pull off a thrilling and
unexpected twist ending and make
it wholly believable. But somehow,
that's exactly what she does.
Though there are some laughs
along the way, the book as a whole
is a story of war and all its trage-
dies, and readers, the young espe-
cially, will be overwhelmed by the
final chapters. It goes without say-
ing that parents need to judge their
own child's sensitivity when put-
ting a tome this dark in their hands.
Make no mistake, it's a dark beyond
dusky: people die, the bad outweighs
the good, and even Harry borders on
unlikable in places.
The flow is much different from
that of any other book in the series.
Instead of getting all the action and
answers at the end as readers are
used to, things are revealed early
and often in this book, and there
are times when readers will almost
feel guilty for knowing so much so
early. Quidditch is given much less
focus than usual, and a lot of the
action doesn't happen in front of the
characters eyes, but in memories or
in the background, while our young

hero is unaware.
Rowling has a knack for infusing
her side characters with very real per-
sonalities, many of which highlight
the worst in human nature. In book
two we met self-promoter extraor-
dinaire Gilderoy Lockhart, in book
four it was nosy reporter Rita Skee-
ter and shrewd politician Cornelius
Fudge, and in book five it was the
poisonous Delores Umbridge. Here,
it's the over-the-hill professor Hor-
ace Slughorn, whose dire need to be
surrounded by important people is
dually sad and oddly humorous.
"Prince" is certainly the best of
the Potter books in terms of plot,
but lacks a little something in other
respects. Because the situation in
the wizarding world is now much
more desperate than before, Rowling
is limited in using humor in her dia-
logue, which is unfortunate because
it's one of the best parts of her writ-
ing. But while "Prince" might read
slower than its predecessors "The
Prisoner of Azkaban" and "The
Goblet of Fire," the compelling plot
stills make it next to impossible to
put down.

DVD REVIEW
In the first four seasons of HBO's hit
drama "The Sopranos," Tony Soprano
fought to gain power, fought harder to
keep it, whacked friends and associates
and occasionally
let his emotions
get in the way. The Sopranos:
The character is a Season Five
deep and complex HBO
one - put simply,
a mob boss who
goes to a psychiatrist to help with depres-
sion and panic attacks. Viewers fear his
rage, yet are drawn to his vulnerability.
It's this almost Victorian tension between
his two halves that give the show its kick.
The familytakes centerstage inthe
fifth season, as Tony (James Gandol-
fini) struggles to salvage his failing
marriage to his wife Carmela (Edie
Falco), while also trying to remain
neutral in a bloody New York power
struggle. There's a scene in the last
episode of the season when Tony, in
the fever of a tense situation, says
to a fellow mobster, "What we are
here for, in the end, is to put food on
the table for our families, our sons,
the future. That's what's important."
This simple premise works tremen-
dously; the show recovered from its
creative slump in the fourth season
and rediscovers its can't-take-your-
eyes-off-the-screen brilliance.
Minor storyline advancement is
the key to its success, as even small
subplots are given plenty of time to.

develop on camera. The emotions it
each scene are as real and as pow
erful as it can get for television, s'
when someone is murdered - alway
filmed brutally and beautifully - th
impact always hits viewers. We're al
part of the family.
The 13 episodes, each with a dis
tinctly cinematic feel, were seemingl
made for DVD format, and when fiv
commentary tracks from the director
and actors (minus Gandolfini, unfot
tunately) are thrown in, the packag
is everything a fan, or even a casut
viewer, could want. The sixth seaso
is scheduled to debut in March, b
until then, this set is an offer that n
television fan can refuse.

Show: *****
Picture/Sound:****
Features: *****

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