Friday, December 17, 2004

A victory for justice

A day after Blunketts resignation, the law lords have harpooned the former home secretarys appalling anti-terror legislation.

The indefinite detention without trial of suspected terrorists at Britains own Guantanamo Bay is one of the most shocking results of Blunketts far right anti-terror laws. However, this latest blow is both damaging to the government and a huge embarrassment for Blunkett on a day when he was probably hoping to slip out of the headlines.

His successor, Charles Clarke has promised to stay tough, but after being defeated 8 to 1 in the law lords vote that may be difficult.

The questions will now also be asked about Blairs entire election strategy. 6 months before a possible election that the PM has promised will be fought on security issues and he has lost both his Home Secretary and been totally humilated by the law lords.

"The real threat to the life of the nation, in the sense of a people living in accordance with its traditional laws and political values, comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these." - Lord Hoffman

It's been a good week.

Thursday, December 16, 2004


In the end it came as a surprise. I had spent the day telling myself that David Blunkett would survive; that despite controversy that had engulfed him for weeks, my local MP would be like his greatest ally, Tony Blair, to be made of Teflon.

But in the end, it was dignified. David Blunkett went when he knew he was beaten. And he was right to go.

I completely agree that an MPs personal life should not be the focus of debate in the press or parliament, but when the line between personal and public life is crossed there can be no second chances. Blunkett was in the 3rd highest office in the land.

Those who know me are well aware that I have wanted nothing more than to see Blunkett out of office, yet I still find the entire situation mixed with sadness. Unlike those delusional Blairites who sincerely believe he has left office with his integrity intact and expressed anger at his hounding in the press, I feel no such thing.

My sadness comes from being unable to fathom how a decent, left-wing, plain-speaking Labour councillor could have become one of the most authoritarian Home Secretaries of modern times. I know what I sound like... a soft liberal... a pacifist who would have let Hitler 'get away with it'...

That's not the case.

I'm not soft. I believe in justice, and in tough punishment for repeat offenders, and in not bowing to tyrants. But to support a man who believes in abolishing jury trials, or preventing your political opponents from gathering to protest, is to lose sight of democracy and justice itself. David Blunkett fully accepted the false ideology of Tony Blair, that a climate of fear was a good thing to keep the people safe.

That we now live in a country were people are more afraid of terrorists than ten years ago when bombs were going off in Manchester, Warrington and London is the true legacy of Blunkett. That we now live in a country were people have less of a right to protest than the people of the Ukraine is the true legacy of Blunkett.

David Blunkett sold his very ideals for the price of being a key ally of Tony Blair. That he was brought down by his personal life is a sad tale, but I for one will not shed a tear for a man who so easily shed his constituents when they became unimportant.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Half Life 2

Few games can have been as eagerly anticipated as Half Life 2. The sequel to the groundbreaking FPS from Valve finally arrived 14 months late and the recriminations are still ongoing.

I completed HL2 last night, so now feel ready to review it. I'm glad I waited till the end to write this as the end really is a curious thing that may well swing peoples opinions of the overall game.

As in the original, HL2 has some stunning gameplay. The tried and tested formula of slowly building your experience up with the various weapons available is carried off to nice effect, but as always I found myself sticking to my favourites for most situations.

Where HL2 really stands out is in its expansive environment. As with the original and it's never-ending mazes of corridors, air ducts and railways, HL2 really immerses you in a world that is both complex and mesmerising. Where this game improves on it's original is that you are not trapped indoors for the majority of the game. While this was a benefit in the original, the fact that you are able to travel along the roads, rivers and rooftops of City 17 make for some stunning visuals in the sequel. When you do go indoors, HL2 loses none of it's charm. From crumbling prisons to cramped basements, the indoor levels are fantastic.

Again, the enemy AI is nice with soldiers ducking out of site and vehicles shooting down your rockets. Unfortunately, this is let down by the lack of AI in your canon fodder soldiers that come to aid you later in the game. At times it seems like there is an endless stream of footsoldiers at your disposal. They run into the street; they fail to duck for cover; they die; more soldiers appear to help. It's a little monotonous and would have been better if the soldiers helping you actually bothered to act like real soldiers.

The introduction of vehicles is a fun diversion in between the real action moments of the game, with the hoverboat providing one of the most exciting sequences in the early chapters.

Of the other additions, the one the stands out the most is the gravity gun. This weapon really does allow you to interact with the environment in a way that had not been possible before. It also comes in mightily handy when low on ammunition. In the final stages of the game, the gravity gun is transformed into an uber-weapon, which is no end of fun... allowing you to pick up soldiers and fling them at their comrades killing all before you.

In the end though, it's these latter stages that prove the most disappointing. After 12 chapters of stunning action and remarkable gameplay you arrive at the Citadel; the central base of City 17. In Chapter 12 ("Follow Freeman") you'll have taken on almost an entire army of troops, destroyed several striders and traversed the ruins of the city. So by now you'll be expecting something special, right?


The final two chapters of Half Life 2 are a major letdown. With the exception of getting the upgraded gravity gun as your sole weapon, the levels offer no major challenges. In total, it took me about 30 minutes to get through both levels and into the final face off, and half of this was comprised of cut-scenes where you are have no control of anything. The final confrontation took me two attempts and about 2 minutes to get through.

After the excitement of the previous levels it was a bitter pill to swallow.

In summary, this is an amazing game, let down by a truly dire final two chapters. HL2 is a lot shorter than the original in my opinion, which is a real shame as I feel those final chapters could have been extended a long way if only the effort had been put in. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to starting a new game on 'hard'. There is enough excitement and gameplay in the first 12 chapters to keep me happy. I'll just have to block out the end.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Sci-Fi Movies Episode 5: The Top 10

My inherent laziness almost got the better of me there, but as promised here are my personal top 10 Science Fiction movies of all time.

2001: A Space Odyssey, (1968)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick, Written by Stanley Kubrick & Arthur C Clarke
"Dave, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. My mind is going."

Was there ever any doubt that Stanley Kubricks and Arthur C Clarkes collaborative masterpiece wouldn't make my top 10? No. This is seminal science fiction. 2001, loved and hated probably in equal measure is still the bar by which others are measured by. I think that when I look at my own favourites in this genre they often tend to be big on exploring the human condition. 2001 is entirely about the human condition and it leaves the viewer often with more questions than answers, thus sparking endless debates - yet another thing I love about movies.

For Stanley Kubrick it was a risky venture. A 140 minute movie that had only about 25 minutes of dialogue and little incidental music, it is easy to see why some label it boring. However, that old adage about pictures being worth a thousand words is alive and well in this film. From the opening scenes with apes evolving to the climactic journey into the very soul of Dave Bowman, 2001 is one of the finest pieces of cinema in history.

Akira, (1988)
Written and Directed by Katsuhiro Ôtomo
"He's not your friend, he's ours! If somebody's gonna kill him, it should be us!"

The only animation to make it into the top 10, and not a single employee of Disney, Pixar or Dreamworks had anything to do with it. That's because Akira is not run-of-the-mill family entertainment. It's gritty Science Fiction in which you feel totally immersed.

For many westerners, myself included, Akira represented a first view of what could really be done with animation. The haunting images of Testuo descending into despair and violence where shocking for me as a young boy, and still are now. The tortured minds of the inhabitants of Neo-Tokyo serve to remind us all of the real dangers inside us.

I'm don't really know anything about Anime or Manga, I love this film because for me, it illustrated for the first time how animation could be used to deal with adult themes. It's offers a scary illustration of how close we all are to the abyss.

Blade Runner, (1982)
Directed by Ridley Scott, Written by Philip K Dick
"All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die."

The darker, more brutal visions of the future offered up by many of the great Sci-Fi films only serve to heighten the human traits we smother in our current democratic societies. The film is an example of how we all fail the basic moral tests laid in front of us. Like all the best Sci-Fis, Blade Runner asks all the right questions about humanity and our society in general. The thing I love most is that the characters are no different from you or I. Human or Replicant, the characters represent our own hopes, fears, desires and aspirations.

The futuristic vision of LA is an expert piece of craftsmanship. With many films it is all too apparent that these are actors on a finite number of constructed sets, but that's not the case with Blade Runner. The parts of the city we don't see, feel like they exist. Ridley Scotts vision allows us to venture around the corner to sets that haven't been built and imagine them for ourselves.

Add to all of this another fine story from Philip K Dick, some of the grandest cinematography in a generation and a masterpiece soundtrack from a man at the peak of his career (Vangelis) and you've got one hell of a movie.

Dark City, (1998)
Written and Directed by Alex Proyas
"I have become the monster you were intended to be."

A year before Neo learned all was not as it seemed in his world, Rufus Sewell slowly unraveled the mystery of his eerie city; a city that no one ever leaves; a city where people and places seemingly change overnight; a city in perpetual darkness.

When I re-watched Dark City I was struck at just how similar in concept it is to the Matrix. Both involve the concept of humans and their environment under some form of control. Both deal with a loners struggle to free the masses. The Matrix may have had the coolness factor and big budget, but Dark City is the one with real depth. The Strangers are far more sinister than the Agents; the heroes far more flawed and real. If you like Sci Fi, watch this film.

The Day the Earth Stood Still, (1951)
Directed by Robert Wise, Written by Harry Bates & Edmund H North
"Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!"

I was on the IMDB message boards the other day and was amazed at just how much debate this 50 year old movie had generated. No one could seem to agree about whether the messages coming out of this film were of hope or impending doom. The fact that people will debate it to death so long after it's release is a testament to it's greatness.

The concept was always simple. An alien and his robot land on Earth to warn the people that they must give up their violent ways. The humans, with their fledgling dreams of space travel and their abundance of Nuclear weapons are now a serious threat and as such must not be allowed to grow further. The warning was blunt. Give up these ways or be destroyed.

The Day The Earth Stood Still is a perfect example of 1950s America. The fears and prejudices of an entire people are on trial and in the film, many of them appear guilty. It raises so many questions about humanity and I often argue that if such an event was to happen we would never give up our violent ways. We wouldn't drop our petty squabbles in favour of a new enlightened way of life. Why? Because to do so would require an intrinsic change in what drives the people of Earth. A change from selfishness to selflessness.

But I digress. And in doing so I think I've found my own argument as to why this movie makes it into my top 10. The Day The Earth Stood Still is the movie that, for me, raises the consciousness to a level were the viewer truly understands how fragile life is and how futile the quest for peace has become.

If you haven't seen this film and call yourself a Sci-Fi fan, then shame on you.

Donnie Darko, (2001)
Written and Directed by Richard Kelly
"Oh, please, tell me Elizabeth, how exactly does one suck a fuck?"

Yet another film to suffer the 9/11 blues, Donnie Darko still amassed a cult following. The hip paradoxical time-travel story about a delusional school kid who believes the world is about end is the newest of all my top 10 films.

The "suck a fuck" quote pretty much summed up this entire movie for me. A nice white upper-middle class American family sit around the breakfast table while Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his sister (real life sister Maggie Gyllenhaal) have the kind of argument that makes parent cry. By supplanting the increasingly disturbing dreams of a tortured mind within scenes of seemingly normal family life we get a film that is both haunting and touching in equal measure.

What is most astounding is that this is a debut full-length movie for writer/director Richard Kelly. At the young age of 26 he's created what can only be described as a legend. Donnies visions of a life size bunny make for a superb mystery and as the film approaches it's climax the many threads unravel at a frantic pace. And in the end we are left with that chilling cover of Mad World by Gary Jules.

It has had critics up in arms about how confusing it is, but I've always held the belief that a movie that leaves you with more questions is far more fulfilling than one with all the dots joined.

Gattaca, (1997)
Written and Directed by Andrew Niccol
"We now have discrimination down to a science."

This, for me, is a landmark Science Fiction movie. It deals with the moral implications of genetic manipulation and the depth of humanity in a way that is both refreshing and frightening. It launched Jude Laws career and even made Ethan Hawke look good!

Gattaca arrived at the perfect time. With genetic manipulation the subject of daily news reports the movies opening subtitle - The not too distant future - seems strategically aimed at this generation. The totalitarian style of society, coupled with the emotionless 'valids' is exaggerated to brilliant effect. While the final conclusion and fate of one of the central characters is haunting.

It may not have entirely original themes, but Gattaca delivers a message that can so often become lost in a directors push for pretentiousness.

A brilliant score from Michael Nyman completes one of the finest sleeper hits to come out of Hollywood in recent years.

Metropolis, (1927)
Written and Directed by Fritz Lang
"There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator."

Do I really have to explain this one?! Metropolis is THE science fiction movie. From emancipation to totalitarianism, it captures so many great themes that have been done to death over the last 77 years. Star Wars, Blade Runner and Dark City are just 3 of the films in my original shortlist that were heavily influenced by this masterpiece.

The acting is particularly hammy in places, but still offers a poignant look at how fragile human society is. Even the religious overtones are palatable in the modern day, while it's political messages on socialism and capitalism are still relevant so many years later.

Like Blade Runner, the city itself is a living, breathing entity. You feel like you could become lost in this endless maze of cold structures, only to find that there is still humanity in it's darkest corners.

Sadly there are now too many cuts of this movie to count, and you have to be careful to see the right one. The 2001 restored version is probably the most comprehensive version now available.

Planet of the Apes, (1968)
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner, Written by Pierre Boulle, Michael Wilson and Rod Serling
"You maniacs! You blew it all up. Damn you. God damn you all to hell!"

When I first saw George Taylor (Charlton Heston) drop to his knees in desperation on that quiet beach I cried my eyes out. I was about 10 years old and I just couldn't believe it. It raised in me so many questions about humanity that as a child I was simply unable to comprehend, and as an adult I still can't answer.

However, Planet of the Apes is more than just its ending. It's a story about our place in the world. The humans of that futuristic setting are dumb primitives, while the apes are an intelligent dominant species. The roles are reversed and the evil we see in the apes is nothing more than the evil within humans of our day.

Again, its message is still as relevant today as it was in the dark days of the 1960s when the world seemed always on the brink of its own extinction. Which is why a small nod to Tim Burton must be made. There is one rule in Hollywood, that MUST be adhered to. Never remake a movie, when the original still has a powerful message to convey.

Quatermass & the Pit, (1967)
Directed by Roy Ward Baker, Written by Nigel Kneale
"We are the Martians now."

Fittingly, the last film in my list is probably the one I debated over the most. with such powerhouses as 1984, Westworld and Close Encounters it would have been easy to discount this relic of the British Film Industry. In the end though it came down to the reasons why I like Science Fiction enough to write about 5000 words over 5 blogs.

I enjoy stories that delve into the human mind. With Quatermass the familiar theme of striving to overcome our worst fears and prejudices are again apparent. The idea that human evolution was down to the interference of aliens has always fascinated me. The reaction of so many people to such news would result in a loss of faith, which is clearly apparent in the views of some of the central characters.

The characterisation is typical for the period and rather than having a set of action hero scientists we are treated to actors who appear more realistic in their roles.

Naturally, 45 years have taken their toll. However, the visions we see through the eyes of Barbara Judd are truly terrifying while the final confrontation, with its religious undertones, is spectacular and reminded me of why I think building cranes are scary!

Battlestar Galactica: Flesh and Bone

After the horrors of Baltars melodramatic in last weeks ep, Galactica seriously needed to get it's feet back on the ground. It achieved it with the relatively thought provoking 'Flesh & Bone', in which Starbuck is charged with questioning a cylon agent (Loeben) found on bard a civilian ship.

The episodes central theme is nothing new. Good guy (or girl) tortures the bad guy to give up information, but in doing so loses perspective. It's a common theme in science fiction television; the episode in which a character gains a deeper understanding of their own humanity.

Despite the lack of originality, this is a solid episode, with some witty banter between prisoner and interrogator. The insidious thoughts of the Loeben cylon leave us with the impression that it is Starbuck who is the captive; trapped in a futile existence. The messages that Loeben plants in the minds of those he encounters are quite devastating and am sure will resurface in the future.

Of course, the reasons why a pilot would be trusted with the job of interrogating a prisoner are glossed over, but that can be forgiven this time ;-)

Overall, I am impressed with the direction of the show so far. The central storyline seems to have shifted from the idea of a last band of humans being pursued and into a deeper exploration of humanity and what makes the new cylons and humans different.

Summary - A good episode, lacking in explanation about some of the more bizarre scenes but with accomplished performances from the central characters.


Sci-Fi Movies Episode 4: Trilogy is 3 arsehole!

Two new computer games have appeared on the horizon, to distract me from both Civ3 and my Sci-Fi top 10. They are Football Manager 2005, and Half Life 2. So this may be my last blog for some time ;-)

Round 3: The final round
AKA the moment of truth. AKA The moment when My Stepmother is an Alien wins.

When I embarked on compiling my own top 10 definitive list of Sci-Fi movies, I really hadn't imagined it taking this long. In a 30 minute brainstorm, I managed to shortlist 31. Truth is, it could easily have been 51 if I'd given it more thought. Once I sat down to write these blogs I realised I'd forgotten a whole host of movies. The human memory really does suck at times.

Anyway... 16 movies remain and they are:

1984, (1984)
2001: A Space Odyssey, (1968)
Akira, (1988)
Blade Runner, (1982)
Close Encounters of the Third Kind, (1977)
Dark City, (1998)
The Day the Earth Stood Still, (1951)
Donnie Darko, (2001)
Empire Strikes Back, (1980)
Gattaca, (1997)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers, (1978)
Metropolis, (1927)
Planet of the Apes, (1968)
Quatermass & the Pit, (1967)
The War of the Worlds, (1953)
Westworld, (1973)

What? No Barbarella? I hope all the Jane Fonda fans out there can forgive me.

When I look at the list above, there are a number of movies that I already know would be in my top 10. They are the dead certs; the films that, for me, define the very nature of Science Fiction. First into the top 10 go 2001, Donnie Darko, Metropolis and Planet of the Apes. Reasoning to follow.

12 movies left and only 6 places, so it follows that the axe must now fall.

Empire Strikes Back jumped out at me first. I love this film. It's the best Star Wars film by a long way and coincidentally the one that Lucas had the least input on.

What draws me to Empire is that it gives all of the characters a chance to shine. Mark Hamill may not have been the most accomplished actor, but his performance in the Dagobah swamps is superb, given he was pretty much alone. The chemistry between Ford and Fisher is a true success and something that Lucas was unable to follow with Jedi or the new prequels. Similarly, splitting up the droids avoids much of the annoying campness that has crippled the more recent films.

Empire is the film that offers a more sober and realistic view to the fantasy of good vs evil. However, despite my love for the number one Star Wars film, Empire does not warrant a place in my top ten Sci-Fis. Empire is a movie about good vs evil, but it's themes are still quite simplistic when you break it down.

The 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a classic piece of cinema. It scared the life out of me as a child, but I was never happy with the oh so perfect ending. However, in 1978 Philip Kaufman (Quills, The Right Stuff) produced a masterpiece remake. Out went small-town America and in came the big city, as one by one the residents of San Francisco are replaced by emotionless clones. Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum and Leonard Nimoy are superb, while the ending is anything but perfect for the good guys ;-)

Time may have told on this classic, but behind the horrible 1970s kitsch is a true frightener. Not quite top 10 standard, but the ear shattering screams are everlasting.

As far as Science Fiction stories go, few can claim to have had such a lasting effect as HG Wells' The War of the Worlds. As a novel it influenced Science Fiction across the globe. As a radio play it convinced millions that the world was actually under attack, and as a movie it gave Science Fiction its first true blockbuster. It's easy to get lost in the hype surrounding a story and for that reason The War of the Worlds is perhaps one of the most surprising cuts from the top 10. For all the brilliance of the original story, the movie lacks the same punch. Transferred from turn-of-the-century Britain to post WW2, small town America, the movie feels slightly out of place. The book at over a hundred years old, retains it's charm and naive optimism about the future.

Perhaps the knowledge that the original movie is so dated is the driving force behind Spielbergs decision to remake it. What he fails to realise is that the true brilliance of the book is in it's setting. A time when machines were truly alien and western confidence (and arrogance) was at it's highest. A modern day remake has already been done... it was called Independence Day and unsurprisingly, it failed to make my shortlist! Give it up Spielbergo!

*pause for breath*

Now that we are down to nine films more clear-cut choices become obvious to me. The break that set 2001, Apes et al above the others now wields it's magical wand of justice and promotes a further four movies into the top ten. Welcome to the elite Blade Runner, Dark City, The Day the Earth Stood Still and Gattaca.

5 films left and only 2 places for them to go. Bollocks! But I want them all in there. Waaaah!


This final decision became a real challenge. It was only now that I realised why some reviewers lumped movies together (a la Guardian). After carefully weighing up the options, it was time to say goodbye to Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Westworld. Close Encounters is arguably one of Speilbergs finest pieces of work, made at a time when he could do no wrong. The mysterious drive towards the final encounter with the aliens is riveting storytelling, while the light and sound show of first contact has been ripped off by everyone from the Simpsons to Independence Day. Despite the tremendous impact it had on me as a child, and the haunting symbolism throughout it falls at the final hurdle.

Westworld, meanwhile, is easily Crichtons finest work. It's memory may be somewhat tarnished by the atrocious followup 'Futureworld', but it still has it were it counts. The dialogue is hammy and the vision of the future on par with the 1970s kitsch we've come to love. This is probably it's biggest downfall. Like The Andromeda Strain, Crichton seems to struggle with creating realistic humans we can easily relate to. Despite this, Westworld remains one of my favourite movies and has influenced a number of modern greats, including another favourite of mine, The Truman show.

11 films, 10 places and the toughest choice of all. In the end, I opted to say goodbye to 1984. Orwells haunting vision of a totalitarian future is possibly one of the biggest influences on my own Sci-Fi Thriller. I love theorising about the replacement for Democracy and stories like 1984, Brazil and even Equilibrium offer those harsh futures that I just can't get enough of. The 1984 version of... errr... 1984 is lacking in that it fails to carry the impact of the book completely across. I know that this is probably true of most movie adaptations, but with 1984 I feel it is relevant. The movie is a scary depiction of the future, but it isn't as compelling and utterly gut-wrenching as the book was for me. Hmmm, maybe it's time for another remake ;-)

So, that's it! The also rans have been listed. I'll publish details of the final top 10 later today.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Battlestar Galactica: Six Degrees of Separation

Most of the recent offerings have kept Number Six in the background, and as such have made her character tolerable. The blonde hottie (not my personal opinion I might add) who's most interesting feature is how little clothing she is wears from one episode to the next is perhaps the result of a brief relapse by Ron Moore into Star Trek mode.

In this episode the likeable, but somewhat melodramatic Baltar has a hissy fit over his dream lovers obsession with religion. As a result, she disappears from his delusions only to reappear for real as a girl on a mission to reveal Baltar as a traitor.

Now on the surface, I haven't minded the religious undertones. I think it illustrates how the cylons have come to resemble the humans more than they realise themselves. However, the direction of this episode which forces Baltar to address his faith once more, was covered in the first episode ('33') and just feels totally unnecessary now.

However, the biggest let-down is in the characterisation of Baltar. The increasingly delusional state he is suffering made for some amusing scenes early on, and while I don't argue that his particular brand of crazy is at times refreshing, this time it is perhaps the most melodramatic piece of acting I've seen since William Shatner collapsed in tears at the death of his on-screen son.

The episode moves from increasingly camp circumstances, including one rather ill-advise toilet cubicle scene between Baltar and his one remaining friend Lt. Gaeta. By the time Baltar started re-enacting the 'files are in the computer' scene from Zoolander I was ready for packing it in. I stuck with it, perhaps mainly because I had friends round!

In summary, my perseverance didn't exactly pay off, although the new fate of Baltar was quite a nice touch. The camp Carry On moments were either the result of bad acting, poor direction, poor scripting or a combination of all three. The few highlights included Adama, who clearly didn't trust Number Six from the start and Boomers brief stint at flirting with a Cylon raider... don't ask!


Battlestar Galactica: Litmus

Running behind again, but hey. Litmus is a strong offering which delves quite nicely into the effects of a witch-hunt on board the Galactica. With the knowledge that Cylons look like humans official, Adama gives the Sergeant-at-Arms absolute authority to investigate the spate of attacks on board. As Tyrol, Boomer and even Adama are called to answer tough questioning, loyalties become clouded.

I think what I like about this episode is that it accurately depicts the way in which the military would handle similar investigations. The public need for a person to pin the blame on has to be met, even if the person is no more than a Lee Harvey Oswald.

Unlike many other popular Science Fiction shows, the resolution is not always easy to stomach. Adama, in choosing to accept the incarceration of a potentially innocent man does so purely out of pragmatism. He doesn't have many experienced men left. And as such he can't afford a vital member of staff to be fingered with blame. It is a dangerous compromise, but one that is more realistic than the typically happy Star Trek endings out there.

Similarly, I like the direction being taken by the Cylons on the now occupied Caprica. The humanoid models seem more human than even they realise. They are curious about every aspect of human existence and while I have come to detest the Number Six/Baltar relationship I do very much enjoy the more subtle Boomer/Helo sub-plot.

In summary, a strong episode, with some good performances. It doesn't offer happy endings and leaves things nicely set up for the future.


Human rights trampled on again.

Yet another long-standing human right was overturned by the US on Thursday. From now on the military can use evidence acquired through torture, in the cases of the Guantanamo prisoners.

Torture evidence has been inadmissable in US courts for 70 years and this latest outrage only serves to illustrate the alarming shift of America from the great protector, to the great threat in our society.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Finding 'my own' Neverland

Life is full of coincidences. My decision to watch Finding Neverland last night because we were late for The Incredibles was a sound piece of timing for me.

Watching the climactic 30 minutes of this film about the inspiration behind Peter Pan allowed me the chance to lose myself in a way I hadn't thought possible anymore.

Peter Pan, more than anything is an adults story. It may make the children laugh but it is the adults that find real meaning in it's tale of the boy who refused to grow up. And in Marc Forsters account of JM Barries life we find a truly magical tale of a man out of place in the rigid upper echelons of British Society.

I don't need to tell anyone that Johnny Depp is fantastic. As always, his performance is remarkable and he captures the essence of Barrie as a boy who is trapped in a land full of adults. But this is very much an ensemble piece, and from Kate Winslets ailing muse to Dustin Hoffmans gentle performance as Barries backer there is not a single poor performer. Special mention must go out to young Freddie Highmore as Peter Llewelyn Davies. His deeply emotional display makes the journey into the land we adults have forgotten that much easier and it's hard not to look into those deep eyes and not be amazed by his talent at such a young age.

Every once in a while a movie comes along that touches me in a way I find both compelling and inspiring. I haven't cried in a movie for a very long time and even I was surprised at my complete loss of self-control in the cinema. This movie, much like the play that inspired it opens a door to a place many would give anything to return to. A place of innocence and magic.

For a brief period last night I lost myself in the idea that there is more to life than this. It wasn't just a case of looking back to a childhood lost but also forward toward a fuller life. As adults we are so consumed in our monotonous daily lives, from the constant pressure of our financial obligations to the dead-end jobs we spend our most productive years trapped in. We are so consumed by it all that we lose sight of the very dreams and aspirations that made us unique as children.

This film is an inspiration. So much so, that for the first morning in a long time, I drove to work with smile on my face.

Finding Neverland: 10/10