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Movie Review
Tom Cruise, The Last Samurai

Released December 5, 2003

It's the Civil War era. Japanese emperor is trying to copy the west and the move toward modernisation is seen by the Americans as a profitable opportunity. Remmington arms are sold, troops fight each other and lots o f heads roll.
Into this medley comes Tom Cruise as a shabby Civil War veteran. Cruise plays Nathan Algren, a war hero who drinks too much because the horrors of war, which include the slaughtering of Native Americans, have left Algren without much left to live for. His new job consists of him going to Japan to train the emperor's soldiers in the art of war by American standards, which includes arterially and strategy. The emperor is facing a samurai rebellion and wants soldiers to help him move into the modern world.

Proud samurai leader Katsumoto played by Ken Watanabe is a former tutor of the emperor and leads a small army of the old guard who are intent on resisting modernity. They refuse to employ guns and cannon. He is the type who would out of loyalty to the tradition the emperor represents, sacrifice his life in an instant if the emperor requested it.

Algren finds the american advisors have done a poor job of training the modernized Japanese army to fight the old army. Leading his untried troops into battle, he is captured and faces death -- but is spared by a word from Katsumoto, who returns him as a prisoner to the village of his son. The unlikely friendship between Katsumoto and Algren develops, and the American Captain begins to find his identity within the peaceful and compassionate culture.

"The Last Samurai" is about two warriors from two different cultures. It's a bit of a buddy cop movie set in ancient Japan. It has everything an epic film should have, such as intense battle sequences, stylish sword fights, heroism, love, and honor. The battle scenes are stirring, elegant and beautifully designed. The story is a lot about dying in battle. In fact that happens to be the main theme that a warrior should die in battle. The storyline is excellent and stands out as an epic with the only problem being an ending that doesn't clarify what the film is really about.

Probably one of the most amazing parts of this film is the attention to detail that was paid in carving out the rural "samurai" village and crowded 18th Century Tokyo streets. The tiniest little detail is paid in each frame of the film.

After the capture Katsumoto, who conveniently speaks English, explains he has kept Algren alive because he wants to know his enemy. Algren at first refuses to speak, but gradually, during a long, rainy winter of captivity, he begins to have philosophical conversations with the other man about the ethics of war and warriors.

The film's final battle scene has Katsumoto leading his men into what appears to be certain death. It raises a question whether it is worth dying for or because of what you believe in. in the end it's a terrific movie.

PS: This is the movie Cruise almost lost his head over, literally. A bad timing during the training sessions for the swordfight sequences almost cost him his neck. And yes, they DO use real swords.

Review By Gokhra


Outlandish formed in Denmark in 1997. The group, Isam Bachiri, Lenny Martinez and Waqas Qadri, grew up in Brondby Strand, a multicultural suburb of Copenhagen. Their family roots, however stretch from three continents; Isam from Morocco, Waqas from Pakistan and Lenny from Honduras. They have known each other from their early teens "It's grown into a family business", says Waqas. "It's not enough to say we're friends. We're brothers."

They got to know each other playing football in the same courtyard, but soon football took a back seat as their interest shifted towards hip hop and break dance. Like most kids of their generation from the UK to South Africa, from Denmark to the USA the whole culture of hip-hop took hold of their lives.

They became fascinated with rap music and its way of expressing what the international youth of their generation felt deep down inside while at the same time soaking up with a fury everything from their own multi-cultural backgrounds.

As time passed it became clear that they could create their own personal and unique soundtrack to their own lives built on a foundation of a hip-hop flavour. This "stew" where the basic elements were indeed of American origin, but where the spices could be beats, sound bites and fragments of everything else around them, whether that be Arabic pop, Indian soundtracks and Latin American rhythms. With lyrics in English, Spanish, Urdu and Arabic you really don't get more multicultural than this.

Released in 2000, Outlandish's debut album, Outland's Official, propelled the band to star status in Denmark. The group were lauded with critical acclaim and were nominated in six categories at the Danish Music Awards (Denmark's equivalent of The Grammys) and won the Best Hip Hop Award. In true musician/award fashion the Hip Hop Award did the 'rounds of the family homes and ended up being dressed in a skirt as Waqas' mother thought it was a little underdressed (a figurine of a naked angel).

But where the focus of the first album was inspired by the bands experiences of growing up in Denmark, the new album Bread & Barrels Of Water marks a musical arrival at the international platform.

"We've reached a stage in our lives, - whereas we had all the time in the world to make the first album and all the experiences of being young and in between cultures was still clear in our minds, - that's not our focus anymore. We'd rather touch on subjects like our families and spirituality.

The world's bigger than our egos and we're all pieces in a greater puzzle. That's why themes like love, trust, hate, friendship, family and God are far more important to us."

But don't see Outlandish as yet another 'agit' political act confronting the ills of the world head on. Creatively the album has been inspired by the group's search for simplicity, intimacy and compassion in their lives.

It features a beguiling mix of dialects and languages and of moods. At times as reminiscent of the party vibe of Les Negres Vertes or that of Arrested Development. From the Spanish tinged vibe of "Walou" to the hip-hop ballad "Aicha", from the genre transcending "Guantanamo" to the rolling flamenco-infused "Gritty", Bread & Barrels Of Water is an album that crosses cultures and continents seamlessly. The uniqueness of Outlandish is the special mix of different cultures and impressions blended into a good song not limited by narrow genres, but playfully surfing over several and doing it with ease.

The title Bread & Barrels Of Water materialised itself almost immediately and became an important beacon for an album that seems more complete, self assured and impeccable than the band's debut.

"We've grown more confident in regards to creating our own genre within hip hop. We've learnt to trust our intuition and tackle things in our own stride. We've developed into ourselves."

Back in the 70's Madeline Bell (Blue Mink) sang of her "Melting Pot…. big enough for the world and all it's got". Outlandish have taken Ms Bell at her word and collectively they have created their own melting pot of contemporary music of the highest order.

Bread & Barrels Of Water is released through BMG May 2003.

PC Game Review


Genre: Action. Release Date: 10/28/2003 . Requirements: 256 MB RAM, 8X CD-ROM, 32 MB VRAM, 1700 MB disk space, DirectX v8.1

Chrome takes place in the 22nd century. You play as Bolt Logan, a mercenary in an outer space dominated by a few large corporations looking to mine "chrome." You never really find out what chrome is, what it's used for, and why it's so valuable. You never even really find out anything about the world you live in, either. Who governs the system? Where are these corporations based? You only get a little background about Logan in the manual. Still, you can easily follow the game's story because none of these questions are terribly important, and the plot of the game is actually quite good. The game begins with Logan and his partner, who are on a mission. Logan is promptly betrayed and framed by his fellow mercenary, thus setting the stage for a perfect revenge story. Or so you would think. Logan isn't a superhero or someone who has a lot of connections. He's an average joe and does the most sensible thing when caught in a life-threatening situation: he flees. This is what truly sets the stage. Chrome is a game with somewhat believable characters and environments.

Logan begins a new partnership with a woman named Carrie, whom he meets in the first mission, and begins accepting new missions from a small mining company called SPACON. Your first few missions will have you performing simple tasks, like recovering stolen equipment and rescuing hostages. Logan is a businessman who accepts missions after payment is discussed and never lets emotions get in his way. After you save a colony from bandits, things get messy for Logan, however. The two major corporations, CoreTech and Zetrox, will throw Logan into several plot twists before the game's ending. Your character changes disposition, as well, when he crosses paths with his former colleague and lets revenge cloud his judgment.

The story is pretty good, though you may be able to see some of the plot twists coming. Cutscenes progress the story before and after each mission, and the voice work is done quite well. You don't have control of which missions you pick or how your character develops, but, rest assured, the game doesn't make you go from being a mercenary to a goody-two-shoes savior. Ultimately, you get to make such a choice.

However, in Chrome you aren't going to get anywhere with just words, and what kind of mercenary wouldn't be adept at using weapons? Chrome has a fair selection of weapons to choose from. There are pistols, submachine guns, heavy rifles, and even a rocket launcher. As mentioned, Logan isn't a superhero, so he can only carry a limited number of weapons, dictated by his inventory space. You can carry a pistol, a shotgun, and a submachine gun quite easily, but there's no way you'll be able to take more than a pistol and rocket launcher. That's because your accessories take up inventory space, too, so you'll be limited in the amount of ammo, the number of health kits, and the number of various other items you can carry.

Part of what makes the game relatively easy is the fact that enemies carry so much stuff. You hardly ever have to worry about ammo supplies because you can pick up more from enemies you've killed. You especially never have to worry about running out of health kits because you'll find a lot of them. The health kits work slowly by replenishing your health instead of giving you an instant boost. The health increase occurs for quite a while, allowing you to continue healing damage should you get hurt again after your health has reached maximum capacity. You can also use a few health packs at once because the healing rate increases with multiple health packs. So a viable strategy is to use a couple of health packs before a fight and engage multiple enemies at point-blank range, if you know there are more health packs nearby.

The enemies aren't too challenging, either. They respond to sights and sounds just fine. In fact, sneaking up behind some guards and capping them in the back of the head is quite fun. The problem is that the enemies aren't too smart. A select few will dodge your fire and seek cover, but the AI could have been better overall. The enemy AI doesn't get too much better if you bump up the difficulty level.

Chrome certainly looks very good and runs fine on midrange machines. It is able to render beautiful environments and detailed models.

Waltzing the Web

By Synergie

December is a month that's filled with a lot of hustle and bustle. The reasons are obvious. It brings forth a drastic change in the weather and with it all preparations for a 'full of beans' winter vacation. It also hosts the opening of numerous wedding ceremonies (yummy!). Moreover it's a special month for us because we have lost a lot (Intellectual Martyr's day) and also gained a lot (our Victory day) in this sacred array of 31 days. And I haven't even mentioned Christmas and New Years yet!

Well, hope you all are enjoying this month to the fullest. I have a couple of friends who are going on an expedition to Mount Tazingh Dong, the greatest mountain range in Bangladesh. Another group has decided to join the grand 'Surja Utsab' arranged by the BAA. So many things to do, so many places to see- don't be left out.

And then again, you can decide to spend this vacation in front of that square-faced mechanical bozo sitting on your desktop. Computers essentially weren't invented only for browsing the net and visiting chat rooms. They serve other creative purposes too. And our friend Arnab Siddiqui is probably at it:

"Hello Mr. Synergie,

In your next Waltzing the Web article could you please write about some free downloadable Web-Designing and Graphics software, along with their sites?"

Not a bad call for. Let's see what the gratis world has to offer on Web Designing and Graphics.

Here a few of the products that you can get for free from this site:

Behemot Graphics Editor: Behemot Graphics Editor is a graphics program which allows to model and render 3D objects and scenes. It runs on Windows 3.1 (win Win32s Extension) Windows95/NT and Linux; it can create and modify graphically b-rep, blob, NURBS models; object can be logically intersected or subtracted; text can be converted into solid objects using True Type fonts; polyline and NURBS curve can be edited and used to build rotation and sweep solids; objects can be linked using skeleton to easily move them.

HTML Effects and Rainbow Text: Auto-creates interesting effects for your web page -- HTML colored text in rainbow hues (or random) and random sizes... don't understand what I'm talking about? Visit the site -- it's simple once you see it.

Gif/JPEG Cruncher: Optimize your JPEGs and GIFs to shrink file size, make your web site faster, save disk space, and generally relieve an overcrowded world.

Reptile (tileable backgrounds): Limited only by your creativity, Reptile allows you to easily produce any combination of wavy, bubbly, organic, big, small, wide, narrow, rough or smooth textures. And besides generating a vast range of shapes and surfaces the program also features a great way to color the textures to suit the look and feel you require. (Win95)

Picture Dicer: PictureDicer is a Freeware tool that chops any image file into several smaller images, suitable for creating mouseover effects and pseudo-imagemaps on Web pages. It also generates the HTML for a table to contain the partial images and display them so they appear as the original uncut image. (Win95/NT)

On this site you'll find a trial edition of a book called 'Web Site Design Made Easy' which you can download for free. It's a very popular book and it has some tips that can really help you get started.

This site hosts a free HTML tutorial software called 'Html Tutor pro'. It's an ideal HTML learning guide for beginners. This tutorial is designed to guide you through the basics of designing and creating your very own Web presence and make learning a lot easier.

Here's what this site offers: HTML Editors, JavaScipt Tools, Meta Tag Tools, Graphics Editors, Graphics Viewers and much much more.

Start off with what I've mentioned (which is actually, not too petite) and there will be much more following. Check out the next issue. Until then, enjoy an expedition, but watch out for Puma's!



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