Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, July 20, 2006




Layer Cake e

Review by Gokhra

The motto: Knowing your suppliers, know your customers, pay your bills and never get too greedy

What do you do when the lead character has no name throughout the movie except something unpronounceable like XXXX? You don't let a gaff like that put you off.

Layer Cake is another anti hero movie that has already become a classic. The movie opens with a narration describing the perfect criminal world. The voice explaining everything to us belongs to Daniel Craig, who plays a suave, competent and conservative middle-man in a well-run London cocaine operation. And he is known as XXXX even being referred to in the closing credits as such.

The plot:
Craig's character is a smart one unfortunately he is among the lower levels of the criminal echelon with the bosses often being too stupid for their own good. Stupid in the sense that most criminals have the motto that if something stands in their way it should be removed. Might is right.

XXXX has a different credo much like that of a business graduate. It involves knowing your suppliers, knowing your customers, paying your bills and never getting too greedy. He has his own drug business which we see in the opening scenes as he is strolling through the pharmacy of his dreams, its merchandise a sea of uniform white bottles marked in big, black, block letters: ECSTASY, LSD, PCP.

He believes it will all one day be legalized and above board but for now the hide and seek is necessary. But then again he also plans to retire except………

His smartly laid out plans take a beating when he is summoned to a private club for a luncheon meeting with his immediate superior, Jimmy Price (Kenneth Cranham). This here is a menacingly hard character.

This last job involves tracking down the missing daughter of Eddie Temple (Michael Gambon), a powerful and connected Price associate, as well as play middleman in the sale of a million ecstasy pills. Now here's the glitch. Temple doesn't really want his daughter found in the true loving way parents want and the pills have been stolen from the lab of a Serbian drug lord by a trifling crook named The Duke. Needless to say the drug lord is understatedly mad. XXXX wanted to play it safe and ruin the business like a regular business. Now he has to end up being embroiled in the type of messes he has been avoiding all along.

So there you have the premise for a lot of bloodshed and plot twists. So what does this movie have that it will make you actually go out and buy the DVD?

The verdict:
First of all the movie has oodles of style making the criminal antics look cool. It was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who produced "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch," two other tongue in cheek super cool crime movies. Layer Cake is even better as it doesn't tries to be a little more menacing than the others with quite a bit of humour. Pulled off right that makes for a masterful production and this movie definitely is.

It's a stylishly made movie about a smart and ambitious young man who has it all figured out and then gradually loses control to old-fashioned hoods who don't have the patience and would rather blow things away. You just can't help but root for the anti hero.

As for the splattering of characters it's been made sure that each character is significant to the movie and has something memorable to do. It's less flash and more substance compared to the other two movies mentioned somewhere above.

The director manages to keep up the speed and movement, even when the action has subsided. It is one tightly packed and craftily delivered piece of storytelling.

By Tanvir Hafiz

If you are an adventure game lover, you'll no doubt remember the game “The Longest Journey (TLJ)”. Released in 2000, this epic adventure is hailed by many as the finest game of the genre. Its depth of story telling and game play along with its lush hand painted visual became the standard of adventure gaming. The Longest Journey to the gaming world is equivalent to The Lord of The Rings to the world of English literature.

After years of waiting, and speculation, and rumors of project being put to the shelves, and numerous name changes, the sequel to the all time favourite adventure game is finally out. Named “The Longest Journey Dreamfall”, the question arises, how does it compare the original? Well let's look at each department of the game feature by feature.

Adventure games are a unique genre in the gaming world. Only a true adventure gamer can know the real difference between a good the not so good and a bad adventure game. So digging into Gamespot to find out whether the game is worthy of your time and money or not wont be of much use. Unlike the other games which are reviewed based on graphics, gameplay, replayability and action etc. I am going to break down Dream fall into story and plot, Puzzle and gameplay, Characters, control scheme and style.

Story and Plot: Like I said before, The original TLJ was the Lord of the Rings of the gaming world. And since there is only one LOTR, there is also one TLJ. Which means that no matter what people tell you, if you play TLJ and Dreamfall back to back, it will only feel as if you are reading a typical DnD based novel based on the master piece. TLJ is known for deep story line and characterization. There are magical creatures with stories and music of their own and monsters with sense of right and wrong. None of these magical creatures and characters make a real comeback. The central character of April Ryan (the main protagonist) is totally different from what we have left her for. But for the sake of creating a character to fit the storyline of dreamfall, the colourful character of April has totally changed into a delusional girl who has lost her magical abilities and is with odds with her surrounding. The story of TLJ should be the story of balance between the world of magic and science. The story of TLJ Dreamfall is basically a story about a giant multinationals exploit of fool the world. In the original, 80percent of the game was played in the magical world of Arcadia, full of exciting magical creatures and events. But playing through Dreamfall, I felt that the entire portion of adventure which takes place in Arcadia could have been removed and would have made no real difference to the storyline except to make it longer. What's worse, there aren't even any magic in Arcadia anymore. On its own, however, it is not a bad story to tell. But what's really bad is that, the story doesn't end in this game and there is a hint that there is another sequel coming out soon. But given that this one took about 5 years to come out, god knows when the next one will come out.

Puzzle and Gameplay: Adventure games usually contain puzzles and clues to solve them all intricately interweaved with the storyline. Unfortunately, the puzzles of Dreamfall are few and far between. Most of the puzzles or tasks are easy, rather like a quest game. Which is good news perhaps for the non adventurer. One can easily finish the game in 15 to 12 hours. Most of the tasks are organic and thankfully not too much running around unlike some of the other adventure games that's out now. But for the hard core adventurers, it could have been better.

Character: In Dreamfall, we get to play the main character Zoe along with returning protagonist April Ryan and another character Kian. Characterization of Zoe is deep, but one cant help feel that there is an underlying sadness in her. In fact almost all the characters, playable or non-playable characters share some kind of sadness. While Zoe's character is sufficiently portrayed, the character of April Ryan was completely off track from the way we have known her in original TLJ. In TLJ, she was a cheerful helpful girl who would take the trouble to save the world. Here, repeatedly, she refrains from taking even an ounce of trouble to do anything to save anything, unless it coincides with her own plans. People who loved and remembered the original April are bound to be disappointed. The third character of Kian is entirely underplayed. You only get to cover about 5percent of the storyline with him. The voice acting of all Playable and NPC characters were done with great professionalism. They sound exactly the way they should sound and its easier to believe that these characters are as real as we are.

Control Scheme: The game controls are much similar to third person action games (Max Payne Like). The camera movement takes a little getting used to. But that is nothing that should hinder us from enjoying the game entirely. Here there are no shooting or dodging, but when you come close to an interact-able object, it is highlighted. Here the developers introduced something unique called the focus field, which basically narrows your field of view using a colour band and enables you to precision select the interact-able objects. In addition, there are sporadic action sequences which can be controlled using the keyboard (mouse didn't work in my PC although the manual said that it would). But they are really easy, and one shouldn't have much problem getting through them. It is a pure adventure game really.

Style: This is where adventure games tend to score heavily opposed to other genres. Adventure games are essentially stories told through interactive narrative. And the so the best adventure games cover the experience the feel of actually playing through a movie. The art direction and sets etc. of Dreamfall is awesome. Although not as crisp as the beautifully hand drawn TLJ, but it still looks good given that it is in 3D. I have taken many screenshots from the game.

Verdict: So what's the final verdict, well if we do weighted scoring then the formula should go something like this (Story and Plot x 2) + (Puzzle and game play x 2) + (Style x 2) + (Character x 1) + (Control Scheme x 1) = 10. I would give the game a fair 7 if you haven't played the original and 4.5 if you have played the original.

By Tausif Salim

Ever since the famous smooth scalp of zizou was driven hard into the chest of Materazzi, the fans have been shocked, stunned and thrown into a frenzy of somersaults that saw them creating a monster out of a hero, and then going back to branding him as a hero, while many were stuck somewhere between the two extremes. In the midst of the reigning madness, our regular columnist of Sportswatch is taking a peaceful nap with his 'third eye' shut, and so I decided to run something on the whole issue, based on the opinions of the fans out there.

The very first reaction of the incident seems to have been hurtful and shocking, according to the numerous comments made immediately. “It's a savage attack... a red card offence!” was how many termed it as soon as the instant replay was shown on TV. The scene of Zidane leaving the field while the crowd hooted and jeered was indeed tragic for anyone who loves the game more than anything else. But initially, the fans were far from forgiving. Someone in an online forum pointed: “It was a rash and violent assault against a two-bit thug. His talent should be paired with class, and it unfortunately wasn't...”

It is perhaps the stature of the living legend that made it so hard for the fans to accept his actions. However, as time passed the media was frantically searching for clues to what exactly was said on the pitch. Expert lip readers were appointed to try and figure out the words, but then again how would anyone know if it was spoken in English or Italian (or perhaps even French?) In the confusion, the newspapers came out with their own versions of the abuse, which ultimately summed up into a diverse collection. When finally he confirmed that the abuse was indeed, pointed at his mother and sister, the great man had already won back the hearts of many of his former worshippers. The opinion of a local fan sums up what many people has started to feel: “The bottom line is...what would you do if someone insulted your mother and sister? Sure it was the WC finals, but kudos to ZZ for realizing that there's more to life than football.” Furthermore, she also pointed out that some of the polls carried out show that his reputation has not suffered.

”I don't think that the fact it was likely a racial insult excuses the headbutt. Zidane is not some straw Berber robot that headbutts people when insulted...” numerous opinions such as the above indicates this debate is far from over. Some are even taking this as a grave racial issue: “The hypocrisy of the sports commentators and that idiot Sepp Blatter who runs FIFA beggars belief. They are always giving lip service to stamping out racism in soccer; but they are very quick to condemn Zidane for reacting to the slurs that were made against him before they even know whether racism was a factor.”

So while the whole world debates whether that moment of 'outburst' is justified or not, I'll leave the readers with a piece of interesting observation made in another forum:

“Was Zizou scanning the field for the location of the officials before he turned to deliver that head butt? It looks like he was seeing where their attention was focused before he returned to lay out that dude. If so, it was not simply hotheaded. (And it did turn out that none of the three regular officials saw the infraction, so Zizou may well have known just what he was doing.) .... He didn't really act like he had lost his cool. Instead, he seemed quite cold-blooded and calm about the whole thing. His expression never changed throughout the whole incident....”<>




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