Sunday, March 16, 2003

Balancing Act

The biggest surprise at the movies so far this year is the mostly unheralded Equilibrium, a sci-fi actioner with a debt to The Matrix (amongst, ahem, other films). It could be the breakout hit of the year much like Pitch Black was in 2000 if Dimension Films can be bothered to promote it.

Writer/Director Kurt Wimmer has fashioned a derivative but highly entertaining yarn set in a future society where all emotions are banned upon pain of execution. The populace is kept in check by mood-equalising medication and failing that, elite enforcers called "Clerics" who employ a novel martial art based on firearms ("Gun-Kata") to either pistol-whip or shoot nonconformists to death. Christian Bale plays the top Cleric who one day neglects to take his meds and starts to become a "sense offender" (or feel criminal, if you like).

The Gun-Kata is absolutely superb and is introduced in an audacious sequence where Bale executes a rebel group in a whirlygig of gunfire lit only by muzzle flashes. It's all done with physical performances and razor-sharp editing, much more effective than tedious wirework and computer enhanced figurines. Other than that, it borrows liberally from popular visions of dark futures. Actually, Wimmer rushes into the Dystopia aisle in the supermarket and flings every tin he can manage into his trolley. Equilibrium's nods to Orwell, Huxley and Ray Bradbury are obvious but it also gleefully nicks concepts from THX-1138, The Handmaid's Tale, Harrison Bergeron and Logan's Run.

Its low budget sometimes work against it and its script sufferes from intermittent clunkiness but it's got enough vim to keep you entertained. Well worth a look if you like this sort of thing, and definitely the best genre B-pic for years.

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Doubting Thomas

Psychologist Brian Young believes that the hit television show Thomas The Tank Engine may be upsetting the kids. The number of crashes on the show may frighten them away from going on a real train.

Everything I read from south of the border tells me that going on a train can be pretty horrifying for adults too, even without the crashes. It's not much better up here. Being realistic I think when it comes to a children's show about talking trains which are fixed to rails the dramatic palette you can draw from is pretty limited. If you want that extra bit of excitement there's not much you can do other than engineer a race or a crash. It's not like we're going to get rites-of-passage shenanigans or a tap dancing number.

Professor Young is concerned that toddlers will be unable to distinguish Thomas and company from real trains, but he's worrying too much. The fact that Thomas is a bright blue steam engine with a face that vocalises distinguishes it from the real hulking machines. Plus, the fact that Thomas moves at all is a dead giveaway.

Keep Your Friends Close But Your Enemies Closer

Peter Cuthbertson's Private Eye snippet from the Secret Diaries of John Major puts the Clare Short incident into perpective quite nicely:

Sacking them would be a sign of weakness. The real strength is in keeping them in government in case they cause trouble on the backbenches.

Tony isn't going to take her out onto the lake and shoot her. She'll resign soon enough - hell, she's had plenty practice at it. She jumped ship in 1988 and in 1991 so her latest spat isn't entirely unexpected.

Monday, March 10, 2003

Short Cuts

Okay, that seems to be the double banner thing gone now. Two for the price of one, eh? Actually, now I'm thinking of doing the Movable Type thing and merging my disjointed ramblings here and my dyslexic snippets from elsewhere. We'll see.

Good grief, if a fortnight ago was a rush last week was even worse. I'll be able to do more of this stuff once I actually get a bit more time without distractions. So once again it's going to be light blogging, at least until the shooting starts. I'm thinking that a week where Fidel Castro is invited to write for the Guardian might be a bit beyond parody anyway. Not that this stopped a couple of stalwarts from having a shot.

Clare Short still has a job, after calling everyone and everything "reckless". Apparently she's going to resign if the decrees handed down by the High Pontiff of international politics, the UN, are ignored. Please, will you, Clare? Pretty please?

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