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Silent Hit

Review by Gokhra

Videogamers turning their wares into movies don't account for award winning enterprises but they can turn out to be good box office moneymakers. Most of the times at least. So is this another such instance or is it a futile waste of grisly proportions?

Silent Hill is a rather groundbreaking movie in terms of its cinematic quality.

The plot:
There's the typical family with the usual problems, sort of. Parents Rose (Radha Mitchell) and the dour Christopher (Sean Bean) don't' know what to do with their sleepwalking daughter Sharon (Jodelle Ferland). She happens to stray further and further in her sleepy journeys at one point even ending up atop a particularly dangerous cliff face.

Christopher opts for medication, while Rose decides to follow Sharon's lead. Right, that's what we should do with sleepwalkers. Just follow their lead and fall under the bus ourselves. When she's dreaming, Sharon mentions a town called Silent Hill. Rose decides she'd better bring Sharon to the town and find out just what all the fuss is about. Turns out, Silent Hill is a ghost town destroyed by a fire and is declared off limits to people that is people that are still alive.

Next in quick succession we have a car accident and the arrival of a female cop on a motorcycle (Laurie Holden). In that moment Sharon escapes into the deserted town that rains ash all the time. Yeah, the fire apparently is still burning.

The mother is lead into a pit of darkness both literally and otherwise. It's a peculiar ghost town but then again a ghost town has to be peculiar. An air horn regularly precedes the coming of a dark tide that literally washes over the ghost town. With that the walls sort of get stripped off revealing an industrial hellscape that lies somewhere beneath. The population is human-faced, screaming insects, twisted lava infants and whatnot. It's a brutal, dark, and hideous place. It's a town of the damned.

Things start to get real bad real fast. You've got a mother running around helplessly scared and then to make matters worse something is way too wrong with this town she is in.

The verdict:
Right from the beginning you know that this movie is not fooling around. There is a pervasive horror that rings throughout the movie. The plot is quite dense which does not need to be so. The scares are aided by horrors of both the human and supernatural kind.

Some parts of the movie work beautifully leaving an indelible sketch of horror in your mind while others are forgettable. One of the best sequences in the movie is a long sequence of bizarre, mind-bending twists explaining the movie in a flashback that looks like a grainy reel of a forgotten 8mm home movie.

The sound plays an integral part in this movie and is often as, if not more effective at building tension and anxiety as the visuals. Where it lacks in story, it more than makes up for in atmosphere and sheer creepiness. In the end it is one decidedly creepy, odd and horrifically enjoyable movie.

Review by, Le Chupacabra

Excluding the typical dreams of endless plummets off cliffs or you trying to fight off bad guys only to find that you can't use your super powers at all, the human psyche can be a pretty weird (understatement of the century!) and scary place at times. One thing is certain - a journey into a person's mind could become an adventure like no other. And that's where Psychonauts comes in.

Born from the ingenious mind of Tim Schafer, Psychonauts is a game that puts you into the boots, or rather, the goggles of a young boy named Rasputin ('Raz' to his friends). Raz's dream is to become a 'psychonaut' - a psychic warrior of sorts. The role of a psychonaut is to infiltrate the mind of other people and take care of whatever business is required.

Here's a game where you begin by entering the mind of your military-oriented teacher, Coach Oleander, to do some basic training. On the way you'll encounter emotional baggage which are, brilliantly, actual pieces of luggage! Later you'll delve into your own mind to literally battle your inner demons. You'll encounter figments of imagination, mental cobwebs, censors that try to boot you from other people's minds and basically every psychiatry-related cliché in the book - all realised oh-so-creatively in visual form. That's where the true beauty of this game lies: imaginative level design. Coach Oleander's mind is a battlefield full of exploding shells, flying zeppelins and old film slides of his greatest achievements. Sasha Nien's is a Spartan cube wherein all emotion and secrets are kept under tight lock - only by accident do you find out what sorrows he hides.

Each mind is a maze (pun intended) and presents a whole new set of challenges and more importantly, a perpetual feeling of wonder and amazement. If you think you've seen insanity, think again. While you enter relatively few minds compared to the huge cast of diverse, loveable characters you interact with - each one also provides a fantastic vehicle for characterization. It's the mixture of what you see, hear and unearth during these psychic treks that flesh out the personalities in this game.

This naturally leads to one of best parts of the game: humour. The humour ranges from literal, in-your-face clichés (the mind-levels themselves!) to characters spewing innuendo left and right to classic slapstick. All this wonderful comedy is beautifully integrated into the whole experience thanks to some fantastic writing by Tim Schafer.

You know what a broad spectrum of personalities the typical classroom contains, right? Psychonauts appreciates this (most of the characters are based on Tim Schafer's schooldays) and you'll end up finding more than just a few recognizable personas. That's yet another aspect of Psychonauts that makes it so enjoyable - you can actually relate to and empathize with the people portrayed.

Since the game is all about psychic powers and all, Raz can actually hear the thoughts of the people around him - more opportunity for hilarity and especially so when these precocious kids are thinking 'inappropriate' thoughts.

Given the way the game is designed, Psychonauts works best as a platformer - and that's pretty much how it plays. Raz has to overcome obstacles by a combination of jumping, double jumping, sliding, grabbing onto ledges… you get the point. He's able to attack by creating a giant psychic hand that karate chops anyone foolish enough to impede his progress. You can even perform the classic jump-smash where you jump up and direct a heavy smash attack below you. All these traditional platformer maneuvers are augmented by various psychic attacks such as Pyrokinesis, telepathy and the such. There's also a handy Lock-Strafe function ala Ratchet & Clank that makes combat much more enjoyable. As far as gameplay is concerned, Psychonauts is pretty solid stuff although the jumping lacks a grace period - you know, the part in other games where, if you miss a jump, your character can still grab the edge. Some jumps can be tricky and the camera can be somewhat unwieldy; this can cause frustration at times. Besides that, Psychonauts has the fundamentals down pat so it's all good.

Artistically, Psychonauts is a work of genius. The characters are designed in a very Tim Burton-esque manner with deformed bodies, over-large heads and a certain air of eccentricity. Despite the fact that they look kind of weird, they still exude a lot of personality. But what will really blow you away is the level design of all the minds you enter. Innovative, amazing and truly insane - each one is a visual masterpiece that you'll enjoy seeing over and over again. That's the artistic portion though; Psychonauts won't win any awards for technical graphics. The game suffers from a slightly rocky frame-rate, the loading is quite slow and the draw-distance (how far you can see in a game) is poor. The general graphics are pretty low-quality overall. The artistry makes up for this pretty well most of the time, but occasionally only just.

The sound department is an equal balance of good and bad. The voice acting is extremely enjoyable and recalls the perfectly camp yet loveable voices that characterize classic Hanna-Barbera toons. On the flip side, the music is commonplace to the point of being forgettable.

Psychonauts is a work of creativity and freshness with diverse level design, brilliant humour and truly wonderful characters. Despite some rather glaring flaws, it's one of those gaming concepts that don't come around very often so pick this up before it disappears.

By Zeeshan B. Rahman

Hip-Hop may not be the most popular genre of music in Bangladesh, but it does have its fair share of listeners. Unfortunately however, there hadn't been any Bangladeshi Hip-Hop band/music till now. But the recent trend that we see in our musicians today to express themselves in different ways and to experiment with different elements of music has finally made the deshi Hip-Hop fans' dream come true. Stoic Bliss's debut album Light Years Ahead is the first attempt to (as the album cover says) “get your @$$es off from the sofa/couch and start dancing and shaking that thing to the 'Grand Tradition of Hip-Hop.”

Stoic Bliss is a group of nine New York based young Bangladeshi musicians Kazi, Rajib, Fly, B1shop, Rul, Ac1D, Tizzy, Xtro and Mana. While Rajib (from the band Warfare of the Maya and Re-Evolution fame), a familiar face in the music community is the music director of this experimental project, all the others act as both rappers and lyricists. The whole album was, almost unbelievably, recorded with only one instrument a Korg Triton. The album, being the first of its kind, adds a new dimension to Bangla music. Previously, it was a popular notion that Hip-Hop would lose its appeal if composed in Bangla. But Stoic Bliss has gone a long way in disproving this idea. Not only do all the tracks in the album have Bangla lyrics (most have a combination of Bangla and English), but also have they been composed in such a way that neither the lyrics nor the tunes seem out of place. This is, in fact, Stoic Bliss's greatest achievement to have found the perfect balance between the language and the music.

The first track of the album is titled 'Abar Jigay??' . This song is like an ode to our beloved Dhaka City and uses colloquial Dhakaite Bangla. It's a fun track and does well to set the listener's mood up for the rest of the album. Stoic Bliss do admit that the music is actually inspired from Sean Paul's song 'Deport Dem'. The next track is named 'Party at PianoHouse'. PianoHouse is basically a music store in Rifles Square, and the intro of the song is about that store. This song also introduces the amazing vocal of Mana and has a nice beat. The next track of the album 'Chow Mei Fun' is another nice song with really funny lyrics. 'Prem… Mrittyur Por' is an average sort of a track, but still B1shop's rapping in the song is pretty impressive. The next track, 'Mayabi Chokh' is probably the best track of the album. It's a romantic song with a very catchy tune. The song is definitely an excellent party song. 'Sheshbarer Moto' is another romantic track that is pretty decent. 'Badman Returns' is inspired from 'The Hata'z Anthem' of Kane'z Beatz Productions. It's one of those 'hardcore' Hip-Hop songs, but again the English rap is very good. The next track 'Bangladesh' is, as the name suggests, about our country. The lyrics of the song is very powerful and moving (both Bangla and English), although the Bangla pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired. But still, this is one of the best songs of the album. 'The Epitome' is the next track of the album. It's another 'traditional' Hip-Hop number. The track, 'Roktim Shinghashon' is Kazi's solo piece. This is probably the only song in the album that doesn't have English lyrics; it's a nice song anyway. 'Deceptive measures' is another traditional Hip-Hop sort of a track that many might not find very interesting. The last track of the album is 'Eto Raag?', an instrumental number.

All in all, the album is pretty good, considering the fact that it's the first album of its kind. The rapping is way better than the other raps in Bangla songs done so far. The lyrics, just like any other Hip-Hop lyrics, is a little explicit (but not so much as to being vulgar). But all credit goes to Stoic Bliss for pioneering the Hip-Hop movement in Bangla. This album is, therefore, a must buy for any dedicated fan of Bangla music.



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