- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2007

Each week the Browser features some pop-culture places on the World Wide Web offering the coolest in free interactive sounds and action.

Aces online

Vegas magician and federal witness Buddy “Aces” Israel finds life a challenge when hired assassins try to shut him up permanently in the recently opened dark action comedy from Universal Pictures, “Smokin’ Aces.”

The lively Web site for the film (www.smokinaces.net/) delivers a visually energetic experience and comes packed with multiple levels of content, large video collages and multimedia interactives to highlight the colorful hit men and women.

Before entering the main site, visitors will find a link to director Joe Carnahan’s blog (www.smokinjoecarnahan.com/) which offers “on the set” video and a link to the movie’s soundtrack site on MySpace (www.myspace.com/smokin acessoundtrack) where they can listen to full versions of four songs. “Big White Cloud,” by John Cale of Velvet Underground fame, is the standout.

The pre-site also provides a chance for adults to watch R-rated scenes from the film. Those interested in the clips will need to verify their age via a Big Brother log-in process that magically identifies appropriate viewers after they enter full name, birthday and ZIP code. Folks should get used to the drill as it is also required for other areas on the main site.

Even more entertaining, visitors can transform themselves into on-screen avatars and enter the Sims-like virtual world of Second Life (http:// secondlife.com) to become a hired assassin and compete for the 1 million Linden dollars, the currency used in the online community.

Registration and a software download are required to take part in the fun, which has players stop by the Nomad Hotel, get a hit list, pick a weapon and perform their job in the three-dimensional universe.

Entering the main site begins with a widescreen trailer followed by Wayne Newton’s introduction of Buddy. A trio of places stand out amid the very active playing-card-themed presentations supplemented by music and character dialogue.

First, a bulletin board (the kind you would hang on a wall, not message) reveals snapshots of all of the suspects in the violent story, with bios available for those who click on their images.

Next, Features is the place to enjoy some games and interactives, such as the ability to create and e-mail a multimedia message via the Send a Hit area. Or look at special agent Stanley Locke’s files on the Witness Protection Program to learn about its history and read the backgrounds on three famous snitches: Henry Hill, Joseph “the Animal” Barboza and Salvatore “Sammy the Bull” Gravano.

Under Games, visitors can challenge Buddy to three-round Card Darts within a suite littered with dead bodies. The player must stop an accuracy meter closest to a bull’s-eye using the keyboard’s space bar to target a board, toss a card and see where it sticks.

Also, Guts is a simple card challenge in which up to four online players choose a character, receive a $1,000 bankroll and get two cards dealt at the Nomad Casino. They bet, and the player with the highest cards wins the hand.

Finally, folks will want to notice a turned-up corner on the main site screen that contains a link to a selection of minicomics inspired by the movie.

After getting past the age-validation screen, visitors will find six multipage stories to read through an interface that allows for zooming into the often profanity-laced panels. The interface is a bit difficult to navigate and will require some practice to quickly read pages to explore events such as how junior agent Richard Messner got assigned to Vegas.

Have a cool site for the online multimedia masses? Write to Joseph Szadkowski at the Browser, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; call 202/636-3016; or send e-mail to jszadkowski@ washingtontimes.com).

Mr. Szadkowski also writes a Web- exclusive column for The Washington Times’ Web site where he reviews educational software and family-friendly video games. Check it out at www. washingtontimes.com/familytimes/ romperroom.htm.

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