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Every once in a while you come across a game that surprises you into liking it. Bully is just one of those games that I thought wouldn't really fare well. Being a pessimistic bloke, I thought the concept of going to school and then becoming number one bully there a bit unrealistic. I never thought Rockstar would be able to pull this off. I was wrong.

First a little bit of history about Bully. The game is one of Rockstar's major releases for this year. Rockstar, being Rockstar has an ability to pick the type of subjects for its games that causes uproar with the public. Bully is no different, causing major controversy over its content even before it was released. Parents, teachers, game critics, social groups caused a lot of legal problems for Rockstar; it reached a peak in the form of a lawsuit filed in Florida by some dude to ban the game from that state. These problems and protest reached such a point that Rockstar was forced to provide a judge with the game before its release so that the judge could test the game and rate it. Eventually the judge ruled in favour (how could he not, this game is awesome) and allowed the game to be released in Florida. Similarly in Belgium a petition was filed by teachers to ban this game, in return another petition was filed to not ban this game.

With that kind of attention the game was sure to be a good seller. After its release it garnered enough positive coverage from the media to make it one of the biggest hits this year. Now for the review.

Meet Jimmy Hopkins, a 15 year old with a new stepfather who's twice as old as his grandfather and a mother who considers him a hindrance to her honeymoon so opts to dump him of at the prison-which-passes-off-as-a-school Bullworth Academy. Jimmy is just one of those guys who manage to get expelled no matter what they do. This fact eggs the principal against him right from the start, and this guy gives him a condescending speech right at the start. Being the newcomer, Jimmy is an outcast among the other students of the school; but does manage to make one friend in the form of the other school outcast, the sociopath Gary. So starts Jimmy bid to take over Bullworth Academy.

The other school students consist of different factions that make up the school social structure. They are:

The Nerds: Exactly as the name suggests. Nerds are the group of people who are held at the lowest esteem among the other students. As Jimmy you have to help out a few of these students, mostly because they can't stand up for themselves and they need the help of one who can (meaning who can beat up bullies).

The Bullies: Future gang bangers and convicts. These people will fight anyone and everyone and are mostly left alone by the other factions of the school. Jimmy starts of on the wrong foot with the bullies and has to deal with a lot of them at the start of the game. The Bullies and Jimmy do reconcile later on in the game though.

The Greasers: Wannabe tough guys and bikers. This group of people mostly hangs around the auto shop and ignores most of the other students. Jimmy has a few encounters with them throughout the game and performs some tasks for their leader.

The Preppies: Aptly put in Jimmy's own words, the preppies are massively inbred but complete brainless. The WASPS of Bullworth academy have a faction of their own. Jimmy has to lock heads with them in the game.

The Jocks: What's a(n) (American) school without Jocks? The jocks in this game follow the same stereotypes that people are already aware of (i.e. slow and stupid but good at football). Jimmy has a few encounters with them as well.

While playing the game you'll also have to attend classes. Each class is in the form of a mini game. For example the English class is an impromptu Scrabble game where you have to come up with words from the jumble of letters provided. Attending classes unlock different abilities and sometimes items for Jimmy's use. For example, attending gym class unlocks different fighting moves learned through wrestling.

The game is basically divided into chapters. Each chapter has to deal with one faction of the group. Jimmy hangs out with each faction and performs for them some errands (against some other faction of the school). For example, while rolling with the jocks, Jimmy works against the nerds. While playing the game you'll also have to perform some errands for the teachers, like when the drunkard English teacher asks for your help to clean up his mess. In the course of the game you'll have the freedom to roam around the town Bullworth and hang around with the Townies, yet another faction of game. Also playing the game unlocks a slew of weapons to add to Jimmy's arsenal, but they aren't the type of weapons you'll be expecting; guns, knives don't exist in Bullworth, instead slingshots, itching powder, firecrackers, spud guns and potato canons reign supreme.

Like other Rockstar games Bully's basic premise is its story missions. And like all other Rockstar games there are a crew of memorable characters that you have to interact through out the course of the game. For example the school's resident hobo, then the perverted gym teacher.

The game-play is distinctly similar to previous Rockstar games with an easy learning curve. The fighting system allows Jimmy to learn different moves to use against his adversaries. To interact with another student Jimmy has first to lock onto the student using the targeting system. Then there is a choice of whether or not you want to socialise with that student or just beat the crap out of them. However the targeting system is a little off, meaning that when using your slingshot you'll find yourself aiming at that small girl than the hulking bully heading for you. This has been a complaint in almost all of Rockstar's games.

Graphically the game isn't visually stunning, but taking the Playstation 2 into consideration, the animated cut scenes look great. The frame isn't overly fantastic and the camera angles can be a nuisance at times, but somehow these are unnoticed while playing. The voice work is awesome and the games music blends well with the overall setting and adds to the whole atmosphere of a school.

In conclusion Bully isn't an overly complex and difficult game although at first it might seem so what with juggling classes and story missions. Once you get used to it the game's main story-line can be finished in about roughly 20 hours. All in all Bully is another feather in Rockstar's considerably huge hat of achievements….

Born to a lawyer mother and an economist father in former Yugoslavia, Ana Ivanovic's transformation into a tennis player is somewhat different that your usual story.

With no one in her close proximity playing the game it was Ana herself who insisted that she be taken to a tennis school after watching the game on TV as a five year old. Her inspiration for proclaiming such a big move was none other than Monica Seles.

Shortly after, her father Miroslav seeing his daughters interest in the sport presented her with a racket and Ana Ivanovic has not looked back ever since.

After a swift transition through her tennis schools in Belgrade, Ana first caught the eye when she reached the final of the junior Wimbledon tournament in 2004, losing to Kateryna Bondarenko. In 2004 she also went 26-0 on the challenger circuit, and won all 4 events that she entered, two of them as a qualifier.

What pushed her to international acclaim though was the Zurich Open in 2004 where she took on Venus Williams in a rousing match-up that the American won on a two set tie-breaks. Her fighting attitude caught the eye and when she followed up that performance with a quarterfinal showing at the Luxembourg Open the next week, Ana had carved a niche for herself in the tennis world.

2005 was where Ana established herself. She burst onto the scene by winning her first career singles titles, as a qualifier, in Canberra, Australia. Her ranking continued to rise after impressive wins over Svetlana Kuznetsova, Nadia Petrova, Vera Zvonareva, all (at the time) Top 10 players. Later on she scored her biggest win as she knocked out local favourite and 3rd seed Amélie Mauresmo in the 2005 French Open's third round, before her tournament came to an end in the Quarterfinals after an encounter with Russia's Nadia Petrova. Her strong showings which were somewhat curtailed by later injuries saw her finish the year in the top 20 as No. 16.

2006 saw Ana continue her dominance over Amelie Mauresmo as she chucked the Frenchwoman out in Sydney in straight sets before herself being ejected by Kuznetsova in the quarterfinals. However her greatest career highlight came later on in the year as in the Canada Masters in August she turned up a dominating performance to send former world number one Martina Hingis packing.

She finished the year ranked number 14 in the world just a few points off the pace to making the top 10 for the first time.

(As usual I can be reached at zulquarnain.islam@gmail.com)

Comedies like these don't' come by every week. It's a comedy that has a lot to do with dialogue instead of plain old fart gags no matter. Although some might say fart gags are never out of style, a dialogue filled script brings about a breath of fresh air.

The movie is an adaptation of the 1994 Christopher Buckley novel. Although I have not read it, I must admit that the movie is a gem and can't have can't have deviated too much from the original book which was a bets seller.

The plot:
Young Joey (Cameron Bright) asks his father, Nick (Aaron Eckhart) and industrial lobbyist, what makes America the greatest country in the world. Quick as a blink comes Nick's reply: "Our endless appeals system." Take that as a teaser as to what is to come. It's like taking a single plot line from the The Simpsons recipe of bashing the American pop culture.

Nick is the official spokesperson for the Academy of Tobacco Studies, a cigarette-funded shrine to the power and the glory of the lobby industry. He is super smooth as evident in an appearance on "The Joan Lunden Show," sitting next to bald-headed little Robin, a 15-year-old boy who is dying of cancer, "but has stopped smoking." Nick rises smoothly to the challenge: "It's in our best interests to keep Robin alive and smoking," he explains. "The anti-smoking people want Robin to die."

Played by Eckhart with wily charm and the righteousness of a missionary, the divorced Nick is dispatched from Washington, D.C., to Hollywood to persuade a studio mogul (Rob Lowe) to amp up cigarette-related product placement in movies. He brings his son on the trip. While out west, Nick and Joey pay a visit to a former Marlboro Man (Sam Elliott) who is dying of cancer. At one point in the movie Nick pays a call on Lorne Lutch (Sam Elliott), a former Marlboro Man, now dying of cancer and speaking out bitterly against cigarettes. Nick brings along a briefcase full of $100 bills. This is not a bribe, he explains. It is a gift. Of course, to accept such a gift and then continue to attack tobacco would be ungrateful. At this point Nick feels his first job-related conscience pang.

You would expect that Nick begins to see the error of his ways. That he would redeem himself turning the movie into a heart warming one. Not quite!

Naylor's opponent in the film is Sen. Ortolan Finistirre (William H. Macy), a Vermont environmentalist whose office desk is covered with his collection of maple syrup bottles. The senator has introduced legislation requiring a skull and crossbones to be displayed on every cigarette pack, replacing the government health warning. The symbol is better than the words, he explains, because "They want those who do not speak English to die."

The movie oozes style in the way it portrays the satire. It is not a particularly angry movie as one against smoking should apparently be. But it highlights the evils modern spin doctors and advertising that promote what is bad as good for you.

Will it stop smokers? Well, everyone knows cigarettes can kill you, but they remain on sale. They help bring in millions in profitable dollars (or pounds or euros). So, the answer is a resounding NO. But it will make you think. And that is a quality missing in movies these days.


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