- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 18, 2006

Each week, the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Cyber Sopranos

For viewers still behind on what’s happening with their beloved Sopranos, HBO has put together a clever way to understand the intricacies of the fifth season along with a plethora of information and multimedia activities covering the show’s mythology.

With the program beginning its sixth and final season last week, HBO’s official “Sopranos” Web site (www.hbo.com/sopranos) serves as a headquarters for fans to enjoy the New Jersey crime clan’s deadly exploits.

I would direct anyone who is clueless about season five first to click on the Sopranos Maps simulation, which uses the latest Flash plug-in. It takes visitors to a location layout highlighting spots in New Jersey and New York where critical events happened.

Eleven red bull’s-eyes are found on top of an interactive road map that can be viewed in its traditional format, as a satellite image of the area or in a hybrid version combining both. Clicking on each mark leads to a pop-up box showing a clip from the show (shot in that area), a plot synopsis and photos of the suspects involved.

A click on a New Jersey Turnpike rest stop near Secaucus reveals a clip of Christopher Moltisanti taking some cash from Silvio Dante while he remains on the run and in hiding from the captain of the Lupertazzi family, Phil Leotardo. The maps also have a zoom function to give a detailed look of the street names and real location.

The hefty Episode Guide is devoted to an encyclopedic history of the show’s five seasons. Visitors get a photo montage from each program, extended text summary, songs featured, a video clip in QuickTime or Real Player formats and, occasionally, memorable lines from a show.

Additionally, the Cast and Crew section also is great source for learning about the extended backgrounds on 35 of the characters.

The Games section only offers a couple of diversions, but is well worth a look.

First, the deceased Sal Bonpensiero still has his nickname tied to a parlor of chance, as players can stop by his Poker Heaven for five variations of the card game. Taking on the likes of Dickie Moltisanti, Feech La Manna and Jimmy Blue Face, the player gets 10 large ($10,000) from Sal and can select from rounds of five-card stud, five-card draw, seven-card stud, Texas hold ‘em and deuces wild. During the action, a slightly animated Sal pipes in with wiseguy comments as the opponents bet thousands of dollars’ worth of chips.

Next, the Turnpike Trivia Game tests a player’s knowledge of the Sopranos with 255 multiple-choice questions that only the most devoted fans will answer successfully.

One of the silliest challenges, found linked to the home page, is also an instant-win game that runs through May 1. A player simply creates an account, providing name, address and e-mail to get the chance to Whack-a-Soprano gleefully.

No shooting is involved, as the player is taken to a carnival midway to play a more traditional game of Whack-a-Mole. Instead of using a virtual mallet to bean furry creatures randomly popping out of holes, the player takes shots at cartoony caricatures of show stalwarts.

After a round of the game, the player can see whether he has won a prize, including a “Sopranos” DVD set, T-shirt or key chain. If not, he can log in the next day and try again.

‘The Monster Walks’ again

The on-demand movie revolution has gotten sweeter for frugal fans of obscure films thanks to Veoh Network’s (www.veoh.com) announcement that it has begun offering a free selection of Cult Classics for its registered users.

More than 90 films that are in the public domain are available on the site (www.veoh. com/channel.html?channel Id=9&network;=Cult+Classics), which means complimentary cinema for the PC user who installs Veoh’s software to watch the full-length epics.

Legendary titles such as the 1938 version of “Reefer Madness,” George Romero’s black-and-white “Night of the Living Dead,” the Bela Lugosi-starring “White Zombie,” and the amazing 1923 silent version of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” with the “Man of a Thousand Faces,” Lon Chaney, will make film connoisseurs weep with appreciation.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, D.C. 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail (jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com). Joseph also writes a Web-exclusive column for the Washington Times Web site in which he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www.washingtontimes.com/familytimes/romperroom.htm.

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