Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Review by Gokhra
of most of this summers movie releases "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" stands out like a very eXpensive candy among a shelf load of 2 taka lozenges.
Roald Dahls writings are witty, humorous and at times dark and macabre. Director Tim Burton's delicious adaptation of Dahl's 1964 children's classic is just like the writer intended. It's full of ridiculously inspired witty scenes and characters either totally, lovably sweet or outrageously, humorously rotten.
The main character is young Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) who comes from an eccentric household that could rival the chocolate makers crazy world. The Buckets live in a house that leans crazily in all directions. The family is very poor. Charlie sleeps in a garret that is open to the weather. His four grandparents all sleep (and live, apparently) in the same bed, two at one end, two at the other. His mother (Helena Bonham Carter) maintains the serenity of the home, while his father (Noah Taylor) seeks employment. Grandpa Joe (David Kelly) remembers the happy decades when he and everyone else in the neighborhood worked in the chocolate factory.
The candymaker, Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) is a paranoid genius who years ago banished workers out of fear of recipe-thieves. Despite firing everyone he has kept on mysteriously mass-producing his toothsome treats. But for some reason because the reclusive Wonka is running a bizarre contest in which five lucky children will, upon finding a golden certificate under some Wonka candy wrapper, be granted admission, with the grown-up of their choice, to the Wonka factory. There, mysteries will be revealed and lifetime candy supplies dispensed.
Of course Charlie wins one of the tickets, not without suspense. He accompanied by the lovable old dude Grandpa Joe (David Kelly). When the five kids and their adult guardians finally get inside, their first sight is a marvel of imagination. It's a wholly different world in there. There's sugary landscapes of chocolate rivers, gumdrop trees and candy mountains. As the tour continues, we learn the secret of his work force: He uses Oompa Loompas, earnest and dedicated workers all looking eXactly the same and all played, through a digital miracle, by Deep Roy.
Charlie's rivals, the first four recipients of the golden tickets, include the gluttonous and greedy fat boy Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz). Then there is the spoiled, greedy rich girl Veruca Salt (Julia Winter) who always wants something new. There is the constantly gum-chewing egomaniac perfectionist Violet Beauregarde (AnnaSophia Robb). And lastly the lazy TV junkie Mike Teavee (Jordan Fry).
All four unworthy little brats are shown around Wonka's candy factory keeping the essential fact that the bad children have to be punished. All of these children eXcept Charlie meet fates appropriate to their misdemeanors. Its very much of a moral story for children that has been super stylized to make even tough as nails gorwn ups gasp in delight. It's an eXhilarating and fanciful movie that never drowns in money or technology. It gives you everything you should want of it.
The movie has been cast with real savvy. The young actors are brilliant to say the least. But no one tops Depp. He plays Wonka like a daffy man-child, brilliant and petulant, always in control but only because he owns everything in sight. His lines contain an uncanny amount of traps and double meanings.
The film works so well because all its makers are so faithful to Dahl's vision and mood. Dahl's story is followed here with unusual faithfulness and devoted detail. Those who read the book would not be disappointed.
So grab a bar of chocolate and sit down to enjoy one of the best movies of this year.
Ratchet & Clank
Up Your Arsenal
By Le Chupacabra
I've always been a fan of the Jak and DaXter series and after playing the first Ratchet and Clank game and its over-hyped sequel, Goin' Commando, I still had one thing to say: Jak ownXXorz Ratchet!
Why did I get the third game then? Well since I did spend some money on a PS2 Multi-tap and I had also heard that Up Your Arsenal (ahem) had a really fun and frantic multiplayer portion, I had to give in. Oh, my brother's also a fan of the Ratchet series. Yet another reason for what I thought would a rather suspect purchase.
Boy, was I ever wrong!
It's true that the 3rd Ratchet game eschews all but a small part of its platforming roots, but making precision jumps was never Ratchet's forté. Instead it emphasizes the use of a zany and wild variety of fire-power. You do have your basic SMG, shotgun and rocket-launcher stereotypes but that's where the similarity with most shooting games will end. The Rift Inducer creates small vorteXes that suck enemies into another dimension. The Quack-O-Ray morphs your enemies into fluffy ducklings that can be bashed into a mass of feathers. The Suck Cannon will suck in small opponents and boXes/crates (a platforming cliché that refuses to die...) and spit them back out with tremendous force. The madness doesn't end here. There are 20 wacky weapons and each can be upgraded into more powerful versions! Since your main protagonists are a tiny robot (Clank) and a furry…well, cat-like…thing (Ratchet), it only makes sense that the weapons are as goofy.
However, don't let the humorous ‘Loony Toons'-esque atmosphere fool you, this one of the most enjoyable and accomplished shooters this side of Halo 2 and TimeSplitters! The fights are brutally-paced with enemies that aren't just cannon fodder. While initial combat was easy, latter parts threw lots of quasi-intelligent opponents (a gaming rarity) at me. An ingenious control system called 'Lock-Strafe Mode' turned what could have been a frustrating war between the camera and the enemies into a truly remarkable shooting eXperience. Lock-Strafe is basically like playing an FPS from a Third-Person perspective. It sounds weird on paper, but in terms of gameplay it's a blessing from Heaven. This way you can move about, strafe and perform evasive jumps, while being able to track the enemy(ies) at all times.
While you'll be inclined to stick a personal weapon set it's still rewarding to eXperiment with some of the more, well, odd weapons. Since all weapons level-up like the main character, what may have been considered weak and useless at one point can turn into something that doles out monstrous amounts of damage. You can also fiddle around with the weapons not for the sake of upgrading them, but because it's also fun and sates those curious enough to try everything a game can offer. The multiplayer mode cuts the weapon selection down to only eight, but it makes perfect sense. There are 3 gameplay types: the eXpected Deathmatch and Capture-the-Flag mods, and Siege. Unlike the former two, Siege has you having an all out battle with the destruction of the opposing team's base being the main objective. Autonomous base defences and Power Nodes serve to only increase the intensity of the battles. Strategic players will realise that by capturing Power Nodes, the chances of winning are greatly increased. They also become spawn points for your team. Having a Node right neXt to an opponent's base is sometimes crucial to victory or it can help you severely cripple the defence system at the very least. With the addition of ground and air vehicles, you can eXpect fast and frenetic matches which resemble large-scale cartoon wars. Though I'm not one to give into hype, I had to admit this: the multiplayer mode in Ratchet 3 is awesome and will be enough to pull you away from Unreal or Halo 2 for quite some time. A brilliant achievement indeed!
The story in this game is very reminiscent of something that Hanna-Barbera or the makers of the Loony Toons would create. Hilarious character interactions, cheesy dialogue and completely hammy and (rightfully) overdone voice-overs make this a journey that will have you chuckling from the get-go. While it's for all ages, there are some slightly naughty jokes and innuendo that slightly older games will appreciate and enjoy. The voices fit so perfectly, from the Buzz Lightyear-like Captain Qwark to the perfectly "eeevil" Dr. Nefarious, you can't but love all the characters for their absurdities. Watch out for the Courtney Gears music video, it's freaking hilarious and an awesome parody at the same time.
The graphics complement the cartoon-like nature of UYA even further. With bright, often garish colours and some wacky character design, this game isn't the best looking but it still holds its own. There is a ton of activity going on at any given time and the levels are rather huge. Not Jak huge, but still huge. The 'small planet' levels from Ratchet 2 return and are some of the most interesting-looking. The best parts are during the cutscenes. Each is rife with some brilliant facial eXpressions and sight gags worth watching out for.
So here you have a brilliant intergalactic adventure filled with humour at every turn and some of best shoot-em-up action ever. It's an awesome game for a single player but a truly brilliant and an incredibly eXciting godsend of an eXperience for 2 to 4 players!
The links are conveniently put up in my site [niloywrites.blogspot.com] for you to click away. And the photo with this Sites Unseen is taken by Orin.
MSN Messenger 7.5 BETA
A new BETA version of the rather good MSN messenger has been leaked and is now available for download. This version makes the eXperience even better and smoother, has a new look and added a few nifty features. For eXample, you can now record and send little "voice clips" to the person you're chatting with.
BDcomics has got new stuff
Although it seems like a bit of shameless self promotion, I recommend you BDcomics again as a lot new stuff is in the site that you'd rather not miss. Especially cool are the links to complete collection of Tintin and AsteriX comics and a lot of Batman stuff. Keep an eye on the site if you're into comics.
Office Guns will teach you how to make the coolest of weapons out of seemingly innocent everyday stationary.
First he turned back alleys into galleries. Then he hacked the MoMA and the Met. Meet Banksy, the most wanted man in the art world! Read more about this guy from this great article from Wired News, [doiop.com/BanksyW]. Then check out his neat website.
Art: Banksy at the West Bank Barrier
The Guardian offers up a recap and a selection of images from Banksy's recent art done to the West Bank barrier wall Israel is errecting aginat the Palestine.
Art: Tyrants from afar
"Geweldenaren Van Ver - a small short, trailer-style aiming at totally blowing away the audience and clear up the common misunderstanding - once and for all - that smaller studios in Holland indeed have enough eXperience and eXpertise to fulfill the task of doing realistic animated 3D." Okay Holland, we get it, you kick ass. The video is 38 MB.
Guess-the-google is simple web app that uses Google's image search to generate a large gridded montage of images based on different keywords. Then it asks you to guess what keyword made up the image - it's surprisingly addictive.
Game site: Arcade Bin
Fade_as_snowflake pointed to this awesome site full of cool flash games. I gotta thank him for this. This site has a lot of my old favourites and some new ones, and quite a few of these I saved for future Sites Unseens. Check out Snowboard, Storm the House, Helicopter among others.
Shouty (and the best) Internet sensation MaddoX is hard at work penning a … well, a screed or something, and evidently it requires a few purdy pitchers to flesh things out, so a call for illustrators was bellowed forth from his site a week ago. The results are pretty great. Should be a funny manifesto.
Stuff on their cats
This is a site for people who like to regularly embarrass their cats. They do it by putting all kind of stuff on their felines and taking a picture of their awkward, embarrassed faces.
Filkr user Sem caught a legion of super bouncy balls blasted into the streets of San Francisco from an air cannon for a commercial shootout. The resulting Flikr photoset has what are easily one of my favourite images to come out of the Filkr community so far.
Art: Infinite Flickr video
Check out this trippy recursive video [doiop.com/inVideo] that knits together images from Flickr's Infinite Flickr group [doiop.com/infiniteF]. The group pool contains shots of people looking at photos on Flickr of other people looking at photos on Flickr, looking at... well, you get the idea. Just peep the video for a nice brain tickle.
The Adventures of Art Lad
Here's something you didn't go when you were siX year old: make art and blog about it. The siX year old Art Lad is genuine in his abilities as an artist, and keeps a blog chronicling his output. Right, anyway, Art Lad's site is waist-deep in the joy of creation, and the kid is good, check out the T. ReX head.
Fancy an end-of-the-world story that doesn't follow the lines of Armageddon or the Day after Tomorrow in terms of catastrophic destruction? We'd like to recommend a drastically different way of looking at things with X.
Apocalyptic drama galore: X deals with an intriguing premise, and a lot of good characters. The world is at the brink of annihilation, and its fate is in the hands of one individual to choose between destruction and salvation of the human race. By his choice of becoming either the Dragon of Earth (destroyer of humanity to free the world of mankind's polluting rampage) and leading the seven angels or the Dragon of Heaven (preserver of human civilization for the future) and leading the seven seals, Kamui Shirow is at the pivotal point of destiny. And he doesn't like it one bit.
Plotwise, X is strong indeed; the premise of everyone's fate being preordained comes through strongly in the interaction of the characters. And while this is fundamentally a battle of good-versus-evil, the lines are blurred because even the antagonists have definite and real motives for doing what they do. More often than not, you find yourself sympathizing with both sides in a fight.
Add to this a plot that twists rapidly and keeps the pace up on the drama and action throughout, couple that with some of the most fluid animation and intricate visuals seen till date, and it's not hard for X to make its case. The music, too, is suitably epic, and fits the ambience very well, generally, though there are a few instants when it seems to be overdone. In particular, the X theme Sadame, stays with you long after you've finished watching the show.
Gripes, then? The cast is, in my opinion, too big for the 24 episode format; a larger length would have allowed complete development all around. A recap episode near the end is a mistake, too, and the ending does seem slightly rushed. In terms of action, indeed, the end is a letdown; nevertheless, since it satisfies on the dramatic side, I'm not complaining. Some more background on the organizations involved would have been nice, too.
While X isn't earth-shatteringly good, it doesn't purport to be so, either; it is, however, definitely worth your time. Beware of the movie (X/1999) however, because it utterly ruins the eXperience; pick up the series when you can, and it will definitely not disappoint.
(Ares, Bittorrent, Kazaa, and other P2P sharers are decent sources. Most members of the RSanime yahoo group have it too)