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Paycheck

A Movie Review By Gokhra

IT is a sci-fi movie that has something vaguely to do with time travel except that no one really travels trough time. It about seeing the future and doing all sorts of things, so the main character has a life altering experience. So far, so typical. The difference is that there is a twist here where the hero has amnesia. The twist is that he is not trying to remember the past but the future.

Ben Affleck plays Michael Jennings who is a reverse engineer. What he does is take hold of any new technology and take it apart. Although it sounds like the antics of a two-year-old, Affleck's character can also rebuild the devices so that they are much better than the originals. Its all about avoiding copyright laws to cash in on someone else's invention but copying, modifying and fitting.

These jobs are so top secret that Affleck is dealt a sneaky contract clause where he sort of agrees that all his memories will be erased concerning the job. He wakes up after every job with a week or so missing and a huge paycheque in his bank account. This is all sort of okay because money speaks.

All this changed, though when he took on a new job where he would have to work for three years and he would forget. Of course as money talks this would have been okay but the directors needed a story and here it is. Jennings woke up one day to realise that he does not know what he has done the last three years and to make matter worse he seems to have forfeited a $90 million deal.

Of course, you cannot have a device that can see through time and not take a peek yourself. Jennings took a look into the future and knew what was going to happen. So he left himself some clues which would help him overcome the obstacles.

He discovered that he had left himself an envelope full of strange objects, each of which not only provides a clue to his erased past but is vital to his survival. You get the whole story gradually. In the past three years, Michael perfected a lens powerful enough to see past the curvature of time into the future. So everything that happens to Michael, he has already foreseen using his own super lens and has taken the precaution to supply himself with everyday objects that will allow him to change that future.

An evil company called Alcom wants to use this machine to make money by selling information to world leaders. As a result, the destruction of the world is inevitable since they will know exactly wat their opponent will do in the future. As if the end of the world is not enough our hero also has a love interest in Rachel played by Uma Thurman. This is a woman he has loved for the past three years but cannot remember now. Just listen to the dialogues between the couple and you'll wonder if nowadays romance is limited to short lines.

It's really neat how Affleck's character works through the puzzles. One of the contents in the envelope was a bus ticket, which he needed just in time as a gang was chasing him. This is where you notice a gaping plot hole. After changing the first thing in time every other event should be different. Anyway it's an enjoyable movie. Not only that, it's a John Woo movie meaning you get your full load of choreographed action scenes, slow motion kicks and a motorbike chase scene involving lots of bad guys in big black cars.


Jensen Ackles

Birth Name: Jensen Ross Ackles. Date of birth: 1 March 1978, Dallas, Texas, USA

Boyishly handsome Texan Jensen Ackles began his career at age four, modelling in print and TV ads for Wal-Mart, Nabisco and Radio Shack, but didn't begin to fully realize his potential until fifteen years later, where he broke hearts and won fans portraying Eric Brady on the NBC daytime drama "Days of Our Lives" (from 1997 to 2000).

After his pre-school foray in to the modelling world, Ackles stayed out of the spotlight until 1995, when he was signed by an agent after being spotted at a Dallas actors' workshop. His TV acting debut came shortly thereafter, appearing in an episode of the Dallas-lensed PBS series "Wishbone", starring a talking dog who acts out literary classics for kids. After completing high school, Ackles moved to Los Angeles, where he landed a guest role on "Sweet Valley High" (syndicated) and a regular part on the high school-set sitcom "Mr. Rhodes" (NBC, 1996-97).

Though the series was troubled from its beginnings and enjoyed only a short run, Ackles used the part as an important jumping off point, and was soon essaying the role of Eric on "Days of Our Lives". Walking in the shoes of a character who hadn't been seen onscreen since infancy, Ackles was a good counterpoint to his evil twin sister Sami (Alison Sweeney), who shared his freshly-scrubbed, golden blond good looks, but unconvincingly hid a poisoned heart. The far more sympathetic and charming Eric quickly gained favor with fans of the soap.

Ackles left the series in 2000, when his character's storylines stalled. He appeared in the CBS 2001 miniseries "Blonde", based on Joyce Carol Oates' fictionalized biography of Marilyn Monroe and that same year became a series regular on the popular Fox sci-fi adventure series "Dark Angel". Having first appeared on the series the season year before as a doomed X5 escapee, Ackles reemerged as Alec, a genetically engineered superhuman with a sarcastic sense of humor and a mysterious background.

Since Fox cancelled Dark Angel after two years, Ackles took on a recurring role on WB's own, "Dawson's Creek", playing Michelle Williams' love interest C.J., during its last season.


Space Telescope Sees Through Nebula

The heat-sensing infrared eyes of NASA's newest space telescope are giving astronomers an unprecedented peek at newborn stars.

The Spitzer Space Telescope took a closer look at the Tarantula Nebula, a region of newborn stars located in the southern constellation of Dorado in a nearby galaxy called the Large Magellanic Cloud, according to a NASA press release on January 16.

"We can now see the details of what's going on inside this active star-forming region," said Bernhard Brandl, principal investigator for the latest observations and an astronomer at both Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., and the University of Leiden, the Netherlands.

The only nebula outside our galaxy that can be seen with the naked eye, this glowing cloud of gas and dust is one of the most dynamic star-forming regions. It contains some of the most massive stars in the universe, up to 100 times more massive than the sun.

Other telescopes, such as the Hubble Space Telescope, have captured the nebula's spidery filaments and its star-filled core. But none was capable of fully penetrating its dust-enshrouded pockets of younger stars until now.

The new Spitzer image shows a more complete picture of this stellar nursery, including a hollow cavity around the stars, where intense radiation has blown away cosmic dust.

"You can see a hole in the cloud as if a giant hair dryer blew away all the gas and dust," said Brandl in the statement.

Launched on Aug. 25, 2003, from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., the Spitzer Space Telescope is the fourth of NASA's Great Observatories. Spitzer gives astronomers a powerful tool for hunting galaxies and other celestial objects that formed relatively soon after the Big Bang explosion that brought our universe into existence.

These ancient objects are now so far away that their light has shifted into the cool, long-wavelength realm of infrared radiation, the portion of the electromagnetic spectrum stretching from about 1 micron to 200 microns.
Visible light, in comparison, is between 0.4 and 0.7 microns; X-ray and gamma-ray radiation far shorter.

While the other Great Observatories have probed the universe with visible light (Hubble Space Telescope), gamma rays (Compton Gamma Ray Observatory) and X-rays (Chandra X-ray Observatory), the Spitzer Space Telescope observes the cosmos in the infrared.

Spitzer's sensitive instruments allow it to sense infrared radiation, or heat, from the most distant, cold and dust-obscured celestial objects such as stellar dust discs that serve as planetary wombs.

By Discovery News


PC Game Reviews

Journey to the Center of the Earth

Gamespot Rating: 6.1 in 10
Publisher: Viva Media. Developer: Micro Application. Genre: Adventure. Release Date: Nov 3, 2003. Difficulty: Hard, Learning Curve: About a half hour, Stability: Minor Problems. Requirements: 64 MB RAM, 16 MB VRAM, 700 MB disk space

Journey to the Center of the Earth has its heart in the right place. It's an unpretentious point-and-click adventure game where you explore an exotic world, collecting countless inventory items and solving puzzles with them. From that perspective, fans of old-school adventures should warm up to the game immediately. Then again, the game is marred by bugs, design problems, low production values, and general sloppiness that usually overshadow its genuine charms.

Journey to the Center of the Earth is inspired by Jules Verne's classic novel of the same name, but if you haven't read it, don't worry: The game's story stands on its own. Taking part in a popular adventure game trend, Journey puts you in the shoes of a young female character, in this case a photojournalist named Ariane.

Ariane finds herself in dire straits from the get-go. A helicopter sets her down by the edge of a volcano in Iceland so she can take pictures. Soon after, a rockslide destroys the chopper, and when Ariane ventures into a nearby cave, she tumbles down into darkness.

She finds herself standing on a sunny beach, of all places. Talking to a nearby stranger reveals that Ariane is now in a secret underground world. It's your job to help her back to the surface while exploring the mysteries of this secret world. Along the way, you'll find a forest of giant mushrooms, tamed dinosaurs, a village of friendly giants, and a quasi-Victorian city of the future that melds 1800s technology with contemporary ideas like surveillance cameras and speedy cable cars. Thanks to a laptop computer, Ariane gets occasional e-mails updating her on the progress of her rescue party and other news from topside. In the strange underground world, she becomes enmeshed in a plot of manipulation and deceit with two possible endings: At a vital juncture, choosing one path will cause the game to end rather abruptly, but the other choice opens up another hour or two of gameplay.

Despite all the potential of the story and setting, they have about as much sophistication as the '70s kids' TV show <>Land of the Lost. In fact, it can be hard to tell if the game was intentionally geared toward kids or is just very poorly written. Ariane mostly seems to take her fall into another world inside the Earth in casual stride, and the inhabitants of this lost world usually don't blink an eye at the intruder in their realm. Most of the characters are paper thin, so don't expect the sort of memorable, even touching, characters you find in smarter adventures like Syberia or Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon. The setting is a mishmash of ideas, and the dialogue is juvenile and stilted--imagine a bad children's cartoon--to the point of eliciting laughter during the serious bits.

Still, if you can shut off your critical faculties and just go along for the ride, Journey's world can be fun to explore. The game taps into the perpetually enticing idea of some fantastic realm of adventure lurking just behind the humdrum facade of everyday life.


Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas

Gamespot rating: 5.7 in 10
Publisher: Atari. Developer: Small Rockets. Genre: Action. Release Date: Nov 3, 2003. Difficulty: Easy. Learning Curve: About a half hour. Stability: Stable. Requirements: 128 MB RAM, 4X CD-ROM, 32 MB VRAM, 600 MB disk space.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is a simple action game based on the children's movie of the same title that was quietly released in the summer of 2003. Though the game features some competent gameplay mechanics and attractive graphics, the extremely short campaign mimics the film's brief theatrical run a little too well, as it's gone almost before it starts.

The problems begin before you even open the box. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is rated Teen by the ESRB, but clearly, this is a game aimed at the same younger audiences that saw the PG-rated film.

Once you get started playing, you'll find that the developers have done a pretty good job with Sinbad's graphics. Though the animation isn't always crisp, the vibrant colors and the artistic settings and character models do resemble the film that the game is based on. The game's music is appropriately epic, but it's disappointing that none of the stars (Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta-Jones, and Michelle Pfeiffer among them) who lent their voices to the film did any voice acting for the game. In fact, the game is devoid of any kind of spoken dialogue whatsoever. The plot is advanced instead by comic book-style panes and scrolling text in between missions. Like the Teen rating, the abundance of written text seems somewhat strange for what's basically a children's game based on an animated cartoon.

The game follows the same plot as the movie. You take the role of the legendary swashbuckler Sinbad, who has been framed for the theft of the Book of Peace, which protects the city of Syracuse. The actual culprit is the goddess of chaos, Eris, and it's up to you to seek her out and return the magical Book of Peace to its proper place.

The gameplay mechanics are surprisingly decent for a movie-licensed game. You use the mouse to move around by clicking on the area where you wish to move. Your actions are confined to just three keyboard buttons, which are mapped to your slashing attack, thrust attack, and block maneuvers. By using different combinations of these keys, however, you can unleash special attacks like dives, uppercuts, spin attacks, and a coup de grâce. Later on, you are able to unleash magical attacks that eliminate every enemy on the screen at the expense of your supermeter, which very quickly builds up as you defeat enemies through more conventional means. The game does a great job at teaching you these moves, and although the mouse-driven movement can make aiming your attacks a little awkward at times, for the most part, the controls feel pretty tight and intuitive.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas' biggest problem as a game is that it's far too short. There are just five different areas to explore, and each is broken up into a few missions. Unfortunately, it takes just two hours or so to get through all of it. A child who is less experienced at games may take a little longer, but the overabundance of health potions and the frequency with which you can clear the screen of enemies through magical attacks makes Sinbad a rather easy game to get through.


 
 

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