By Neshmeen Faatimah
"COURTNEY: I KNEW SOMETHING LIKE THIS WAS GOING TO HAPPEN!
MITCH: YOU DID? WOW. BECAUSE THAT ZOMBIE BIT REALLY THREW ME."
Coraline, Corpse Bride and now ParaNorman. Writer/Director Chris Butler has been on a huge roll in the animated thriller-comedy genre. With ParaNorman though, Laika Studios, Chris and Sam Fell (Flushed away, anyone?) just took stop-motion to an entirely new level, thanks to brilliant visuals, detailed character models, superb directing (actually better than a lot of today's new action films), witty script and vivid imagination that took a seemingly clichéd plot and made it wonderfully entertaining.
The story is about young imp-eared boy Norman (Kodi Smit-McPhee) who can see and speak to the dead. Since people tend to not believe in these strange things until the last moment when it's smashing them in the face, Norman is bullied and treated like a freak by everyone around him. Outcast and lonely, he finds a friend in Neil, (Tucker Albrizzi) a fat adorable boy picked on because of his weight. One day, deranged uncle Prenderghast (John Goodman) confronts Norman, telling him that the town will soon be in danger and in need of his help.
Sceptical at first, Norman resumes his normal daily life until scary visions and the newly dead Prenderghast's ghost force him to take action and - with the help of Neil, dumb sister Courtney (Anna Kendrick), Neil's brother Mitch (Casey Affleck) and obtuse bully Alvin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) - try to save the town from misunderstood zombies and a vengeful witch.
It is a familiar but nevertheless creative storyline about the outcast proving himself and the psychology of the youth dealing with issues of acceptance and identity. The movie has easy laughs, scary scares paired with great directing and a young but mature script making it one definitely worth watching this season, whether you are a fan of animated movies or not. There is just something delightfully different about it all.
THE HUMAN ANIMAL
Humans are reaching new heights every day. Be it arts, science, literature or communication, the human society is moving faster than ever before, while slowly losing touch with our inner animalistic nature. The very idea that we also are 'animals' - like the apes in zoos or dolphins in the sea - seems rather ludicrous to us. Despite our intelligence or innovation, we are still primates, and a closer look lets us realise that our resemblance with the rest of the animal kingdom is more than we ever care to think.
In this 1994 documentary, BBC and Discovery Channel collaborated with celebrated anthropologist Desmond Morris to shed some light on human behaviour, because after all, we are just another species in the animal world. In six elaborate segments, The Human Animal lets us experience the human life from a completely zoological and sociological point of view, at the end of which we would have to agree that from the tribes of central Africa to the modern metropolises of the west, the human behaviour regarding society, love, hierarchy are astonishingly similar to each other.
The first episode of the documentary is called 'The Language of the Body', which depicts the evolution of communication far before languages ever came into play, how they progressed for thousands of years into creating a rich vocabulary of body language and a curious look into body speak across cultures. The second segment, 'The Hunting Ape', shows the main activity of humans - the quest for food, which acts as the driving force in transforming societies. 'The Human Zoo' portrays the urban tribal behaviour seen throughout cultures and the urban societies are compared to concrete zoos for humans rather than being jungles. The fourth and fifth episodes, 'The Biology of Love' and 'The Immortal Genes', explores the innermost workings of human sexuality and how it affects societal views, the need to create a family and basically, the very values that puts societies together. The final episode of the series is 'Beyond Survival', which illustrates the need for humans to go beyond just existing into uncharted territory; the creation of arts and music, the study science or philosophy and an understanding of their surroundings from a self-actualisation point of view.
For those who are interested in zoology or ethology, The Human Animal makes a very interesting watch. It takes the human societies unawares and analyses the smallest of details in a mindboggling way. Even if you are not one of those who would like to see a fascinatingly made documentary that sometimes defies the very notion of what we see as 'human', this is still worth the watch. The videos are available in Google Videos and on YouTube, so give them a try, because sometimes we need something smarter that Glee in our system.
By Shaer Reaz
The original Borderlands game - released three years ago to an unsuspecting world of gamers - divided opinions and generated cult followings while others ripped through the game, calling it a waste of time with little to offer in terms of storyline or character upgrades.
For the past few months the expectant buzz hyped up Borderlands' sequel, with gamers waiting patiently for the return of the Vault Hunters. Return they did, with a bang and a shotgun shell or two. The opening credits, accompanied by The Heavy's “Short Change Hero”, introduces the four classes of heroes you can play with. There's Axton, the Commando, good with guns, explosives, all around weapons specialist. The Gunzerker (“noh” clue what it means) Salvador is a brutish hulk who can decimate everything in the battlefield with his blazing guns. Maya the Siren is a master of telekinesis and fluid progress. The coolest by far though, and the class I chose, is Assassin. Zer0 has unmatched skill with long range rifles and knives, and his decoy ability is a huge bonus when making the jump on an enemy. It's not just Zer0 either, all the other classes have some unique powers or attributes, not to mention specific weapon skill sets.
Claptrap, Wall-E's idiotic half-brother of the gaming universe, makes a joyous return in the sequel. It just isn't fun without the eccentric little robot clunking around telling you what to do and how to do it. The list of hillbilly fairytale-esque characters goes on and on, the antagonist being a loathsome creature of a man called Handsome Jack, a mentor of sorts to Dr. Ned, General Knoxx, and loads more.
The story is pretty much the same as before. You're on the almost barren planet of Pandora (no reference to Avatar, besides the habitable planet thingie), looking for adventure, fame, and most importantly, loot. One of the Vault Hunters, you are searching for the mythical Vaults, or at least the second one to be located. You'll be fighting the local gangs and bandits, Hyperion Corp. thugs, and the wild, ferocious beasts that populate Pandora's surface. Choose your class
carefully, however. It is way too easy to get stuck on a mission because your character lacks the skills and strength to progress past enemies.
The best thing about the game is the feel of the whole thing: the environments, the epic gunfights, and the familiar Southern drawl that somehow seems well-suited to the game. The graphics are done in graphic novel style, most of the
rendered objects draped in cool and warm pastel-like colors. The soundtracks are epic, almost reminiscent of another Space Western story that captured hearts worldwide: “Firefly”. In fact, some of the characters and the general theme of being a treasure hunting mercenary on an alien planet add to the “Firefly” like feel. The level of badassery is close to the cult TV show, but Borderlands does it in a quirkier and funnier way. Humour is ever prevalent here, so expect a few chuckles as you pause in between shooting some idiot's head off with a high powered rifle.
The complaints are few, but those few keep nagging at you. The heads up display and the inventory menu are a bit more complicated than the original game, more compact in size, but often the cause of confusion. If you are a hoarder in RPG games and have collected every single dish, tankard, table lamp and pokemon in open world games like Skyrim, then you're going to be disappointed. The inventory always seems to be overflowing with useless junk. Thankfully, you have some respite, with the option of marking certain items as junk.
Another complaint would be the repetitive missions, and the average size of each mission. They get longer in time, but the first few missions are too boring and below average to spark any immediate interest. But stick through them and it gets a lot better after a while.
The enemy AI is quick and intelligent, so be prepared for a good firefight even if you're well versed with first person shooters. The bossfights are intense and highly rewarding, with unique weapons and weapon upgrades making things more interesting. Gameplay is insane amounts of fun once you get used to the game's slightly arcade shooting style.
Overall, Borderlands 2 is a massively fun game and a worthy sequel to a great RPG game. Here's to hoping the next one will be even better in every way.
Click! Getting that perfect shot
By Rannia Shehrish
The task of buying a camera can be overwhelming and confusing, especially to those with grain-sized knowledge on cameras. Low budgets and the new trend of DSLR are only making it worse. To guide you through this difficult task, here's a market survey of the latest cameras and tips on buying them so that you get the perfect camera for you.
We start off with the basic point-and-shoot cameras. From basic to advanced, these are easy to use, inexpensive, and compact and come with several scene modes, adequate for taking the pictures that are shared online. However, because of its lack of features and manual controls, the image quality is mediocre.
Currently in the market:
· Sony H-70 price Tk.16000
· Samsung PL170 price Tk.11200 (Dual view)
· Samsung MV800 price Tk.24000 (3“touch flip out LCD, 3D photo)
· Nikon coolpix S8200 price Tk.25000
· Fujifilm JV300 price Tk.7990
Next we move on to the compact fixed-lens cameras. Consisting of some manual controls and greater zoom, these portable and versatile cameras produce good quality pictures. Though portable, they are still a little bulky and also expensive for a fixed-lens camera.
Currently in the market:
· Canon PowerShot SX230 HS price Tk.32000 (GPS)
· Samsung WB700 price Tk.21000
· Sony HX-9V price Tk.35500
The semi-DSLRs showcase excellent image quality and have no shutter lags. The interchangeable-lens (for some of them) and manual controls for exposure and focus makes these cameras perfect for photographers - amateur or not - despite the price, size and lack of viewfinder.
Currently in the market: (Tk.17000 minimum)
· Samsung NX100 price Tk.36000
· Fujifilm HS25EXR price Tk.35990
· Panasonic Lumix Fz40 price Tk.28000
· Canon PowerShot SX40HS price Tk.40000
· Sony HX-100V price Tk.40000
And finally the DSLR - the camera known to make anyone a good photographer, regardless of him having or lacking the talents. With the sudden plague of amateur photography, the sight of people with DSLRs, taking pictures of cell-phones on wooden table and such, followed by hyperbolised positive appraisals. While DSLRs do generate excellent quality photos, even in low light, it is the sense of proportion, colour and light direction which leads to a good photo. Other pros of DSLR include its versatility and short shutter lag, manual controls, interchangeable-lens and viewfinder. The cost, importability and complexity can act as drawbacks.
Currently in the market: (Tk.40000 minimum)
· Nikon D-7000 price Tk.105000
· Nikon D-3100 price Tk.40500
· Sony á57 price Tk.95000
· Sony NEX7 price Tk.158000
· Canon EOS 1100D price Tk.50000
· Canon EOS kissX5 price Tk.75000
· Canon EOS 7D- price Tk.130000
(Prices given are as they were when last checked and may vary by a few thousands depending on shop and availability.)