The first hour is from the perspective of the FBI agents assigned to tail the Soprano family, while the emotional pinnacle of the second hour comes during Livia’s memorial service.


Tony's Back On The Trinitron
There's more to life than Napster and Courtney Love; indeed, your best bets this weekend will take place right in your family room (and there's nothin' better than that). So, without further ado, let's all conjure up a mental picture of ourselves sinking into the couch and grabbing the remote, not to mention the joystick. Word up.

The Sopranos:
Reason enough to plunk down the $15 a month for HBO, "The Sopranos" kicks off its third season Sunday night with two consecutive episodes. The critically acclaimed mob drama has to deal with the death of Nancy Marchand, who portrayed Livia Soprano, mother of title character Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini). The bickering between mother and son gave the show a brilliantly sustained tension, as it juxtaposed her cruelty and Tony's see-sawing between hatred and guilt for hating her, giving viewers a window of empathy for the anti-hero—not to mention that his own mom tried to put a hit out on her son. The first hour is from the perspective of the FBI agents assigned to tail the Soprano family. Producer David Chase gradually brings viewers back into the world the series inhabits, showing the monotony and normalcy of the Soprano family's everyday life—apart from the fact that Daddy is a boss in the New Jersey mob and occasionally has to kill people. Outtakes and computer trickery were utilized to put Marchand into a few scenes, but the emotional pinnacle of the second hour comes during Livia's memorial service. —David Simutis

Waz upper, playas & playettes? Your playa patna LPzeee iz back with yet anutha PS2 review of the week. So if you had enuff of tha rain and can't make it to tha slopes, here iz anutha way to make it happen. EA waz tha first to announce a snowboarding title for tha PlayStation 2, but SSX puts a unique twist on this powdery genre. Rather than offering a life-like simulation of the sport, this game breaks free from tha shackles of reality. Instead of boring snowy slopes and mountainsides, gamers are be able to board down tropical icebergs or through giant pinball-machine-like malls, performing overly extreme jumps and tricks tha entire way. SSX's controls play a huge part in the game's design, using literally every single button and stick on tha Dual Shock controller, whether it's simply for steering or used in combination with others to tweak and refine a grab or spin trick. The music, done by Beastie Boys DJ Mixmaster Mike, iz also just az important, adjusting dynamically to the on-screen action. —Latin Prince

"Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy." —H.L. Mencken

"The Mexican"
: I've seen the trailer for this one a half-dozen or so times and it looks less and less appealing to me each time. Lovable dufus Brad Pitt and kvetching Julia Roberts play obnoxious but adorable, bickering lowlifes in this kooky Hollywood road movie that co-stars the great James Gandolfini, aka Tony Soprano. The movie was directed by Gore Verbinski, who helmed the mildly amusing Nathan Lane Disney flick, "Mouse Trap," and here seems to be striving for some mix of Tarantino-esque violence and nutty, screwball comedy. The shaggy-dog tale is about a hapless mob gofer (Pitt) forced to leave his girlfriend (Roberts) and head south of the border to retrieve the titular antique gun, which comes with its own flashback, sepia-toned legend. Never trust a movie in which the two romantic leads seem to spend most of their time separated—and when they are together, bitch and throw things at one another. From the looks of things, the real sparks are between Gandolfini and Roberts, he as a gay, bearded hitman with a heart of gold and she as a psychobabbling shrew.

"The Caveman's Valentine": Samuel L. Jackson rarely turns in a poor performance, but he's unintentionally over the top as a dreadlocked one-time piano prodigy turned homeless guy who proceeds to solve the murder of a young hustler the authorities believe froze to death. Jackson goes back into society to conduct the investigation when he's not paranoid of his brainwaves being monitored by some guy who supposedly lives at the top of the Chrysler Building. Director Kasi Lemmons, who received kudos for her work on the similarly mythical/mystical "Eve's Bayou" takes an uneasy step into the mainstream with this one, which is reminiscent of "Suspect," that Cher movie in which she defends Liam Neeson as a homeless guy accused of murder. But seriously… No one wants to go to the movie theater to watch people who hit you up for spare change in the streets.

"See Spot Run": In the woof-woof tradition of "Turner & Hooch" and "K-9" comes this tale of an FBI-trained dog named Agent 11, who bites the testicle off mobster Paul Sorvino and goes into the Witness Protection Program, only to escape and get adopted by an accident-prone, pooch-phobic mailman (David Arquette). Bow-wow, it's "Best In Show" meets "The Sopranos." The film is shot, in part, from the dog's point-of-view—complete with flashbacks to its pup days—which reminds me of esteemed Hitchcockian Raymond Durgnat's reaction to my own maiden film-school effort, "Mystery Girl (The Dolls)": "It looks as if it was shot by a dog." Today, that would be a compliment. This is for fans of Arquette's 1-800 commercials and canine-lovers only.

"Series 7: The Contenders": This independent film, which comes on the heels of reality TV shows like "Survivor," recalls Cornel Wilde's '66 film "The Naked Prey," where a prisoner is set loose in the jungle by African natives, who pursue him in a deadly game of hide-and-seek. Writer-director Daniel Minahan (who co-wrote "I Shot Andy Warhol") uses a hand-held, cinema-verite approach to tell his apocryphal tale of a hit TV show (in its seventh season, hence the "7" in the title) that rolls into a suburban Connecticut town to pit the residents against one another in a series of duels to the death. It's America at its Jerry Springer dysfunctional best, as Brooke Smith plays the very pregnant, gun-toting series champ who reluctantly returns to her hometown to go up against the man she left behind (Glen Fitzgerald) and a bunch of hypocritical, pious do-gooders who represent everything heinous about middle-class Amerika. Sounds like black comedy with a taste for the macabre—"Mad Max" meets "American Beauty" for the WWF generation. —Roy Trakin

James A. Garfield, our 20th president, was born Nov. 19, 1831, in Orange, OH. By a margin of only 10,000 popular votes, Garfield defeated the Democratic nominee, Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock. Six months into his term, on July 2, Garfield was shot by Charles Julius Guiteau. At first the wounds were not thought to be life-threatening, but Garfield never fully recovered. On Sept. 6, Garfield was taken to the New Jersey seaside, where, on Sept. 19, 1881, he died from an infection and internal hemorrhage. Best Anagram Of His Name: Fried algae jams. Best Anagram Of His Assassin's Name: Real gauche suit.

Jon Brion, "Meaningless" (Straight to Cut-Out): The self-mocking title of Brion's "label" (he originally made the album for Atlantic, but the two parted ways before its release) gives an indication of this L.A. singer-songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist's sense of his commercial prospects. But fans of adventurous, well-crafted pop—even those unacquainted with Brion's frequently astonishing onstage high-wire act, his tenure with Jellyfish and the Grays or his work as producer for Aimee Mann, Fiona Apple and others—will consider this disc "straight-to-replay." With a classic, sturdy sense of melody, witty wordplay and an expressive, vulnerable vocal style, Brion charms on tunes like the determined "Walking Through Walls," the aching "Hook, Line And Sinker" and the upbeat downer "I Believe She's Lying." His playing, meanwhile, is both virtuosic and daring. You can also check out this ultra-talented troubadour at jonbriondirect.com or jonbrion.com. —Simon Glickman

Upcoming Birthdays
March 2-8
2—Dr. Seuss & Lou Reed
3—"Wee Willie" Keeler
4—Catherine O'Hara & Mary Wilson
5—Penn Jillette
6—Shaquille O'Neal & Bob Wills
8—Mickey Dolenz

Special Events
March is Women's History Month
2—Fulton Oysterfest (Fulton, TX)
5—Feast of Excited Insects (Korea)
7—Ash Wednesday
8—International Women's Day

It Tastes Like Burning
Working here is a lot like the weather: Everybody talks about it, but nobody does anything about it. Anyway, expect more crummy weather this weekend in Los Angeles—stay inside and download some tracks from Napster. Saturday will be mostly cloudy, with temps hovering in the mid-50s, with a solid chance of rain. Ditto on Sunday. Look for rain to continue through the week as well. Ugh. Still, it's better than NYC, which will see tons of clouds on Saturday, with temperatures in the low 40s, dropping to the upper 20s at night. Sunday will see snow and temps in the low 30s. And our peeps in Kansas City, KS will see partly cloudy skies and temps hitting 50 on Saturday. That night will be clear, dropping to the upper 20s. Sunday will be considerably colder, getting up only to the upper 30s and dropping to the low 20s at night. The weather in Kansas City, MO will be much, much different.
—David Simutis, apprentice metereologist.

Mrs. Garrett deals with Cindy, who is insecure after being nominated to compete against Blair for the title of Harvest Queen.


Dynamic duos (12/3a)
She'd make one helluva CEO. (12/3a)
Ch-chingle bells (12/3a)
Adele is money. (12/3a)
Reshuffling the deck (12/3a)

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