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Review by Gokhra

The first movie had Vin Diesel playing Xander Cage who was an extreme spy. In the sequel he becomes an ex spy. It's a bit disappointing to know that the cool Triple X dies in some mission and is replaced by a newer version. Diesel had more attitude than a bus full of post-adolescent boys trying to be cool.

Samuel L. Jackson (playing Gibbons) is still the head of a top-secret organization that deals with world threats in the oddest ways possible. In the beginning of the movie we see a bunch of masked bad guys dropping in on a quiet serene ranch. Bad guys always happen to wear masks so that's why we know who they are.

So why would bad guys want to take over a ranch? That's because the whole good guy secret organization (a.k.a. NSA) is hidden under the ground. They blast their way through and start killing everybody. Samuel Jackson being the boss character manages to blast his way out of the place with his skin intact. He does so in style in a highly modified 70's Pontiac GTO fully equipped with missiles and purple paint that changes to gold under different lighting. Oh yeah, he also manages to take along his gizmo expert.

Without NSA to protect the country something sinister will happen. SO Samuel Jackson goes about finding a new super spy. This time he needs someone who is more extreme than Xander Cage and thus we see the brooding frowning face of Darius Stone played by the brooding frowning face of Ice Cube.

Stone was put into a prison for trying to overthrow a four star general that was up to no good. Of course, he gets court martialed and put into jail. The general played by Willem Dafoe meanwhile become secretary of state or something like that. So Stone breaks out of jail with Jackson's help.

What follows is a by the numbers storyline of continuous action. The plot is thinner than supermodels on a diet. Basically Willem Dafoe is planning to take Washington under siege. He will assassinate the president and frame the good guys. Then he will take over the USA and that will be the end of freedom. Part of his plans probably include bombing countries like Bangladesh into non-existence.

All this is interspersed with some shimmering hot babes and even hotter cars. He movie includes a lot of chases. There's one where cops chase a boat, a tank chases a tank and cool Shelby Cobra chases a high-speed bullet train. The last is a bit over the top where the car shreds its tires to run on the train tracks just like a train. Also the tank chase is pretty neat where the whole scene is aboard a aircraft carrier. One tank is catapulted into another using the slingshot devise that quickly propels jets off a carrier's short runway.

The movie is filled with non-stop action and slightly cheesy one-liners. A speech by Ice Cube to warm up his black brethren includes something like "we need to protect out rights to jack any car at any time". It is moving stuff that borders on the racially stereotypical.

So in he end it's really a pointless sequel. The action is good and at some point unique. Ice Cube offers good doses of required attitude. There's plenty of hot women and cars. Its a good popcorn movie to give you an adrenalin rush. Brilliant, it ain't.

Be on the lookout for XXX 3 because near the end Jackson is heard planning to find an even more extreme Triple X.

Ice Cube began his career with the notorious gangsta rap group N.W.A. He broke away at the height of their national notoriety. On his initial solo release, 1990's Amerikkka's Most Wanted, Ice Cube injected virulent political and cultural rhetoric that stepped above N.W.A's gangbanging braggadocio. Ice Cube squashed the bi-coastal rap rivalry and collaborated with New York's hip-hop heavyweights Public Enemy. Their production team, the Bomb Squad, produced Amerikkka's Most Wanted. The track "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" was his debut solo single and was #1 on the Hot Rap Single chart. The album sold over a million copies.

Ice Cube became a lightning rod for attracting attacks from rock critics and moralists for his lyrical content. Time has shown that the ruthless words and pointed imagery on both Amerikkka's Most Wanted and 1991's pre-LA riots Death Certificate were not included for shock-value. The message construed in his rhymes presaged Los Angeles's incendiary reaction to the outcome of the Rodney King trial. America was now listening to Ice Cube. Death Certificate debuted at #1 on the R&B Album chart and #2 on the Top 200 Album chart.

In 1992, Ice Cube continued his vocal incursion into suburban America with a role in John Singleton's epic film on South Central LA, Boyz In The Hood and by touring on the second Lollapalooza. His next release, The Predator, galvanized him as the premiere multi-platinum West Coast hip-hop G. It debuted at #1 on both the R&B and Top 200 Album charts. The Predator was an epilogue to the LA riots and while "It Was A Good Day" provides a hassle-free moment in a Compton day, there is still dissonance in Ice Cube's America. 1993's Lethal Injection sees Ice Cube morphing into his "Don Mega" persona that permeates his War & Peace albums and projects with Westside Connection.

These first four albums set him up for his later successes. In addition to his War & Peace two-album series, Ice Cube has recently starred in The Friday After Next, the 3rd installment of his multi-million dollar earning Friday movie franchise, Player's Club and the critically praised Barbershop. His most recent foray has been as an extreme spy in XXX2.

From the opening movies, it's clear that visual appeal was at the forefront of the designers' minds. The CGI is stunning! When the credits are superimposed over the first reel, it's almost jarring. You get sucked in, and the credits fade in like the best Pixar flick. The polish is apparent!

In Scrapland, you play the role of a cybernetic being who built himself out of junk parts. His name, in true satiric form, is D-Tritus. You soon find out that Scrapland is the remains of what used to be Earth! When the environment became too hostile for carbon-based life forms, they abandoned their home planet, as well as their cybernetic creations. When the 'bots achieved full "awareness," they formed their own society, and, as a natural result, banned all humans from the surface of the Earth. Soon after your arrival on Scrapland, you land a job as a reporter trying to solve a bizarre murder case. What follows is a web of conspiracy and deceit that will set your mind a-spinnin'.

Your adventure takes you through numerous gameplay styles, from over-the-shoulder 3D to flight Sims. Scrapland's denizens all have a sense of humor that takes me back to Douglas Adams' "Starship Titanic" in their irreverence and general lackadaisical approach to all things. The levels are large, the challenges many, and the control scheme ... well ... err, I'll get to that presently.

Most of the game is spent in over-the-shoulder third person view. Our little metal hero is rendered in great detail, with a very pleasant feel to him. You know that this is a good little robot who just wants to do the right thing. Soon after landing on Scrapland, D-Tritus goes through the de rigueur tutorial missions, getting you (and him) acclimated to wandering around this junk planet.

In addition to your third-person view, Scrapland is home to literally hundreds of different spaceships, all yours to design, customize, build and fly! Here comes my first issue: the ship control in Scrapland is maddeningly difficult. Even at the lowest graphics detail, there is a very noticeable lag in ship response, not to mention the natural difficulty in flying with a mouse.

That being said, the game does deliver on a number of levels. First and foremost is something that is lacking in most games these days: charm. In an age where most games are getting more and more "in your face" with characters and situations just dripping with hard, gritty attitude, it's quite refreshing to play in a game world that makes you smile more than gasp and laugh at over-the-top harshness. D-Tritus is an immensely likeable 'bot. The other denizens are equally quirky and enjoyable. The voice acting is above par, and the characterizations are memorable.

The apparent freedom of choice is another plus. Like the Grand Theft Auto games, Scrapland gives you, for the most part, the freedom to decide where to go and when. It is not as totally open-ended as GTA, but its non-linear quality is a good thing.

Visually, Scrapland just out-and-out ROCKS! This is among the most beautiful games I have seen in recent years, with eye-popping graphics that will push your video card to its limits.

The voice talent is another huge check in the "Pro" column. Even though each robot "type" is voiced by the same actor regardless of the actual character portrayed, the dialogue is sharp, witty, and occasionally hilarious. Loyal readers will recall what a stickler I am about voice acting in video games, and this one gets a solid "A" in this area.

The cities are huge, and I mean HUGE! Tunnels, bridges, tight corridors, dizzying vertical climbs, and just as dizzying dives are found around each corner. Unfortunately, once you get past the "gee whiz" stage of them, you soon realize there isn't much there in the way of content. In short, this is a victory of style over substance.

The missions you are sent on during your quest for the truth are derivative of most games of this ilk. Luckily, you never have to spend a lot of time, as in a lot of games, wondering "how" to do something. Scrapland is very clear about your objectives.

The storyline is like a cross between a Douglas Adams novel, and a 1940s film mystery. The interesting twist is the use of the GDB, or Galactic Database. Using a device that D-Tritus gets relatively early in the game, he can transform into one of 15 different and unique characters by simply finding a GDB "pod." There are many of these floating around the planet, which does make me wonder, if any robot can be re-created by the GDB, how could one be "murdered?"

Oh well ....

In the final analysis, Scrapland is fantastic eye-candy.

Scrapland has a highly imaginative, shiny and charming art style, plenty of humor, and a hefty amount of play time, but it would have benefited from making the on-foot locations quite a bit smaller and from reducing the amount of required combat.

Chimera is a very open environment where you can just bomb around, cause havoc and steal ships, but you won't stumble across any additional game content, even though the design is ripe for it. There also isn't as much mission variety as there could be. I just wish there was. It's painful to see a game with so much potential only achieve a part of it.


Xbox 360 in-depth details and pictures are officially out! The next-gen console is a tower of chilled white and chrome accents wrapped around a heart of graphics-pumping, teraflop-churning gaming goodness. The 360 is a sleek console that lives in high-def sound and video, can extract media from your PC or mobile devices and can change its look to fit your personality.

The Xbox 360 is a quantum leap forward in technology; sporting three symmetrical cores running at 3.2 GHz that cam perform 9 billion dot product operations a second. The 360 will sport a custom 500 MHz ATI graphics processor. The processor will be able to produce 500 million triangles a second and have a pixel fill rate of 16 gigasamples a second. The console will also have 512 MB of GDDR3 RAM operating at 700 MHz. The systems overall floating-point performance will be 1 teraflop."The bottom line was, between the GPU format and cores, and 512 memory, the Xbox 360 will be significantly faster than the fastest PC," he said. Despite the enormous increase in raw power, Microsoft isn't really talking much about the Xbox 360's innards though, instead they are concentrating on what they think will set their console apart from the PS3 and Revolution. [From Kotatu.com, and this link from the site has more detailed info plus the official pictures:

http://tinyurl.com/agfal]In other news, the Nintendo Revolution will be a tiny, sleek console that sits horizontally, according to a New York Times story.The next Nintendo console will be no more than three DVD cases tall, or about an inch. The console will feature wireless controllers, online play, play standard DVD movies and use the format to play a "new class of high-definition games." It will also play GameCube, that's right it's backwards compatible. [Also from Kotaku.com]It sounds like we will all be getting more details at E3. Let the carnival of information overload begin.The usual cool links will start from here. Note that you can visit my site niloywrites.blogspot.com where you'll find the whole Sites Unseen and all the links, so that you don't have to type the links up.The Best of Photojournalism 2005

http://tinyurl.com/529z5A bat-breaking moment in baseball, gold mining in east Congo, and a rare view of "secret weapon" Laura Bush -- with these images, and many more, the National Press Photographers Association presents us with some of the best pictures taken last year. That means a crush of Bush fans and a quiet moment between John Edwards and Emma Claire, the "oh-wow" factor of the summer Olympics, and a young refugee of the Darfur crisis. I went eye-to-eye with a bullrider and bull named Wet Fish Justins, encountered a lone Marine in Fallujah, and saw a fallen soldier saluted by his football team. I enjoyed Lance Armstrong in stillness and one paralympic athlete in motion. It's nice. Check it out.Lakota Winter Counts

In this day of blogs, PDAs, and laptops, imagine if someone said: You can only mark the passage of time with one image -- per year. The Lakota, a Native American tribe from the northern (US) Plains, did just that. They kept careful calendars, also called "winter counts," in which they recorded the events of each year with a single drawing. This Smithsonian site brims with pictures from their winter counts. You can scroll through image after image in the overview section; slowly examine single pictographs close-up; or look at copies of calendars that stretch for decades, some by artists like The Flame, Lone Dog, or Battiste Good. The site even offers a "My Winter Counts" area where you can collect your favourite images and email them to yourself -- for later viewing pleasure.Gaming is good for you

Playing video games, it turns out, can actually be a good thing. The Mercury News recently ran a strangely positive article about gaming. The story is sort of light on facts, but very heavy on gaming praise. It sort of feels like the Merc is just sucking up to gamers. But there's nothing wrong with that. "The people who play games are into technology, can handle more information, can synthesize more complex data, solve operational design problems, lead change and bring organizations through change." Wow!Ze Frank loves Condi!

The Internet's Ze Frank guy loves Condoleezza Rice, apparently. It's apparent, because he's singing his soul out with about how much he loves her. 1.3 MB.World's coolest roller-coasters

These roller-coasters will kick you backside, so to speak. And they are mind numbingly insane!

That's it for this week. You can visit my site at niloywrites.blogspot.com or email me at niloy.me@gmail.com.

By Niloy





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