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The unbreakable


A consummate professional, Samuel L. Jackson put in years of work with small roles in small movies before a young director by the name of Quentin Tarantino turned him into a Jherri-curled superstar and a hollywood big shooter.

It took almost twenty years for American audiences to finally put a name to Samuel L. Jackson's face. Born in Washington D.C. on December 21, 1948, the actor was raised in Chatanooga Tennessee. Growing up, Jackson was plagued by a stutter. He first got into acting after his speech therapist suggested that auditioning for the college play might help him get over the impediment. It worked, and Jackson soon switched his major at Morehouse University to Drama. While attending the University, Jackson became active in Civil Rights causes, and was expelled from Morehouse for participating in a student demonstration. However, the school took him back, and he graduated in 1972. Soon after, he moved to New York to become a star.

He received some early acclaim working with the Negro Ensemble Company of New York, and appeared in diverse theater productions. While it offered paychecks, the money was still rather tight for the struggling actor. Other, slightly bigger, paychecks came when Jackson landed a job filling in for Bill Cosby on his hit 80s sitcom The Cosby Show. Jackson's job was to keep the audience entertained between breaks.

Jackson had also worked in movies, and had made his debut in the 1976 television movie, The Displaced Person. From there it took five years for Jackson to log his second credit, "Gang Member No. 2" in 1981's Ragtime. Jackson's work over the next years continued to be mostly in minute roles, "Hold-Up Man" in Coming to America, and "Black Guy" in Sea of Love.

The only man who would give him any real work was director Spike Lee, who cast Jackson in such films as Do the Right Thing and Jungle Fever. The two hit it off after Lee saw Jackson perform in a presentation of A Soldier's Story. Jackson had long been a fan of the stage and had garnered a good deal of success off Broadway. When he later had the opportunity to be the lead in a version of August Wilson's Two Trains Running on Broadway, he lost his job. The producers were apparently scared off by Jackson's growing addictions to booze and crack cocaine.

Losing the role was a wake-up call - and Jackson soon began to get his life in order. Ironically, his first role as a clean and sober actor was in Jungle Fever, playing the crack addicted brother of Wesley Snipes' character. There was already a notable difference in Jackson's capabilities. He won a special prize at the Cannes Film Festival for Best Supporting Actor, a category they had never recognized before.

Better roles followed, and gradually audiences began to recognize Samuel L. Jackson's face. However, it was 1994's Pulp Fiction which really blew audiences away. The actor nabbed a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his turbulent role as a Bible-quoting hitman who thinks he's witnessed a miracle and wants out of the business. Thanks to Quentin Tarantino, Samuel L. Jackson was now a star.

Jackson followed up with a fun turn in Bruce Willis' sequel, Die Hard With a Vengeance and a powerhouse performance in John Grisham's A Time to Kill. Since then, he has gone on to become one of Hollywood's most popular leading men. His vivid energy comes across in everything he does, and audiences can't seem to get enough. He has proven that he can carry an action blockbuster - The Negotiator, and dazzle in supporting roles - Jackie Brown.

Despite the hype, The Phantom Menace opened to mixed reviews, and many fans were disappointed with how little Jackson appears in the film. Still, his character of Mace Windu is rumored to become more important in the future prequels. Jackson has also recently completed the retro remake of the Shaft. Watch out for his upcoming role as a swat team specialist in the aptly named action movie SWAT.

Runaway: A Road Adventure

Runaway: A Road Adventure is a new entry in the traditional adventure game genre from Spanish developer Pendulo Studios. Well, Runaway is new to the United States--the game's been available in Europe for quite a while, but it's just now showing up on these shores with fully translated text and English dialogue. In the fast-paced world of PC games, a delay of just a few months can make your game look dated when it's finally released, so you might expect a delay of well over a year to be Runaway's death knell. However, adventure games depend more on creativity than technology, and it's for this reason that Runaway is just as enjoyable today as it was when it was originally released. The game is a reasonably well-made attempt at revitalizing the adventure game spirit of old, and though it may not quite live up to the standard-bearers of the genre, it's certainly of sufficient quality that adventure fans should give it a look.

The story in Runaway follows Brian Basco, a recent college graduate based on the East Coast who's looking to continue his studies out West. Brian takes off on a road trip so he can begin a postgraduate stint at UC Berkeley, but he doesn't even make it out of town before his plans are reduced to shambles by a collision with damsel in distress named Gina. Brian's big heart demands that he help Gina, who is not surprisingly being pursued by some jackbooted mafiosi, and together they take off to flee the thugs and also discover the secret of a mysterious artifact entrusted to Gina by her slain secret-agent father. If this setup sounds a little far-fetched, it is, but as you wend your way through the plot, you'll find a fair number of interesting places and people, as well as some unexpected twists (especially toward the end). Overall, the story is pretty evenly paced and should satisfy all but the most discriminating gamers.

If you've played just about any point-and-click adventure game from the past decade, you'll be right at home with Runaway's control scheme. If you click a spot on the ground, Brian will walk there. The cursor is context-sensitive, so if you pass over an object, you'll get a magnifying glass that lets you examine it, and if you highlight a path for moving offscreen, you'll get an arrow that lets you go there. Hitting the right mouse button lets you cycle through any other relevant actions, such as operate or take. Your inventory is available at the touch of the Tab key, and you can even move to a new screen without waiting for Brian to walk there by double-clicking (which is a huge time-saver). The puzzles are almost all of the "combine item A with item B and apply to hot spot C" nature, which is what you'd expect of an inventory-based adventure game, though there's a good amount of dialogue-tree character interaction going on as well. In gameplay terms, Runaway is pretty much by the numbers, but it works well for what it is.

Visually, Runaway has a lot of panache. Adventure games are scarce enough as it is these days, and it seems like most of the ones that do come out use CG as the basis for their backgrounds, whether they're real time or pre-rendered. Given this, Runaway's look is refreshingly traditional. It features a huge number of lovingly hand-painted backgrounds that will remind longtime adventurers of their old favorites, and the character models are cel-shaded 3D models that animate very well and blend in perfectly with the backgrounds.

The voice acting, alas, ranges from pretty good to pretty bad, and it's even glaringly obvious in a couple of spots that the same actor or actress was used to voice multiple characters. None of the voice acting is so horrendous that you'll want to cover your ears (or just turn off your speakers), but it does detract from the charm of the game somewhat.

Runaway has a few other shortcomings. For instance, the game just isn't as humorous as it could have been. Perhaps it's because this version of the game is a translation, but the humor demanded by some of the game's story elements, like a trio of drag-queen divas stranded in the desert, isn't quite there, at least not in force like it ought to be. The writing isn't a total bore, but you won't get the constant one-two comedic punch as you would from a game by Tim Schafer or the Two Guys from Andromeda. On the technical side, some of the objects you're meant to interact with are nearly impossible to pick out from the backgrounds, and you'll probably end up having to comb every pixel with your cursor looking for a hidden hot spot before you locate certain essential items. This can be a real pain sometimes, though on the other hand, it does make you pay more attention to the details in the game's art. Finally, some of the puzzle solutions are really on the odd side and not entirely logical.

Nevertheless, if you've been searching for an adventure game worth your while, Runaway: A Road Adventure is for you. It has pretty much everything you'd want out of a solid adventure experience, like diverse settings, a good storyline, wacky characters, and lots of complex puzzles. Even if some of its elements aren't up to the standard set by the greatest adventure games ever released, Runaway is still a good game that's recommendable to fans of the genre, as well as those who maybe haven't tried this style of gaming before.




Website Review


Mohammad Hammad Ali

The recent years have seen quite a few changes and additions to the music scene of the country. Most noticeable of such changes has been the emergence of a large number of alternative music bands. Although most of these bands are underground, and not as well known as the big pop bands of the country, at least we now have some bands that play different music from what we are more or less tired of by now. Another good news is that now we have a web site that is trying its best to give adequate exposure to such underground bands that show potential. The name of the site is www.altermetal.com.

Rafi and Raqib, two brothers, were always into alternative music and knew a lot of people involved with alternative music. One fine day, or maybe it was evening by then, they decided to design a web site that would provide adequate promotion to the underground and semi-underground bands. Thus was born the idea of the altermetal site. Initially they prepared a few questions and approached 6-7 bands, asking them to answer the questions so that Rafi and Raqib could make their profiles and host them on the web site, thus letting the fans know more about these bands. At present they have profiles of a large number of bands almost all the underground bands that play alter music. This site has been in operation for almost six months now, and is regularly updated by Raqib, who is the webmaster. Rafi is the President of the web site and Tanim is in charge of the alternative bands section.

The people behind this site claim that they have the best picture gallery of Bangladeshi bands among all the sites, which may well be true. I will refrain from giving an opinion on that mainly because I have not visited too many picture galleries of deshi bands. What I can vouch for is that they surely have one of the most active forums with over 200 members actively participating in discussions on several topics.

Unlike many other Bengali bands' web sites, altermetal does not offer a huge archive of songs to download. What they do is that they often offer small clips of newly released songs. This is in order to let the visitors to sample these songs by less known bands and in the process provide the bands with some exposure to the general crowd. Such promotion really helps these relatively new bands, and this option is open for any and all bands.

This site mainly covers alternative, metal and fusion based music. Their biggest objective, as they say repeatedly, is the promotion of new bands, but the people behind the site also arrange concerts quite frequently. At present, they are doing their best to highlight debutante bands. In the near future they also plan to arrange tribute concerts, where all the bands performing will be underground bands. They are certainly doing a great job till now and have promising plans. Here's wishing them all the best in all their plans for the future.

The gaming phone

Nintendo's Game Boy Advance is the unquestioned champion of portable gaming, but the world's largest manufacturer of cell-phone handsets is trying to change that. Nokia's N-Gage combines a portable gaming device, an advanced cell phone, and an MP3 player in one compact package. Is it worthy of the hype?

The Nokia N-Gage is a GSM cell phone with a portable-gaming platform. The $300 device, which resembles the older Game Boy Advance, is scheduled to ship worldwide in early October with 20 launch titles, including Tomb Raider, Sonic the Hedgehog, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and Splinter Cell.

Upside: The N-Gage's gaming focus is evident in its horizontal layout, its 176x208-pixel color screen, and its thumbpad controls. Built-in Bluetooth enables head-to-head multiplayer action and provides access to a host of standard connectivity advantages, such as wireless headsets and PC syncing. For musical interludes between games, you can listen to the FM radio or play back MP3 and AAC files. And the Symbian 60 operating system makes the N-Gage a smart phone, as well.

Downside: The N-Gage's display is not as spacious as the Game Boy's. The games, sold on interchangeable MultiMediaCards (MMCs), cost a hefty $30 to $40, and most are familiar titles available on Nintendo's portable and home consoles. Battling via Bluetooth is cool, but we'd love to see PC-style online play. Nokia plans to add that functionality in the future, but it won't be available at launch. And the MMC slot's position behind the battery makes switching games and MP3 mixes a chore.




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