My Shoes Are Wet

Warning: This post contains spoilers and sarcastic undertones.

Time for another infrequent and unreliable movie review. This time, it’s the TV waterfest that is Flood, starring Robert Carlyle (Full Monty, Transpotting), David Suchet (Poirot) and Jessalyn Gilsig (Claire’s “mom” in Heroes).

The movie often reaches out at factual events and incidents to back up its fictitous story of a hurricane trimming the Scottish coast before pulling back into London and flooding everything out. New Orleans is a regular reference, and I believe some of the images were from the Boscastle flood in 2004. The filmmakers are also at pains to point out that the Thames Barrier has been raised much more frequently in recent times compared to when it was first built, so they have evidence on their side. Wikipedia even chips in with a description of how storm surges can be funnelled towards the Thames Estuary in certain circumstances.

Still, what follows is a story of how woefully ill-prepared Londoners are to a wave of destruction. Cue watery effects, dramatic escapes from incoming surges and thinly veiled tension between former partners.

What really makes this movie though is how laughably implausible certain parts of it are. As t’other half pointed out, in Flood and for that matter The Day After Tomorrow the characters, when faced with a rapidly approaching wall of water, turn and run. Can they outrun this mountainous surge of death, despite being injured and/or unfit? Of course they can.

I always enjoy picking apart the technology scenes, of course, and Flood has a good few at the ready. Deputy Prime Minister, do you want to see live progress of the flood? Good news. Somebody had the foresight to create a pretty animation of the progressing surge in real time. Want to know if the professor succeeded in pulling that switch? How about a real-time on-screen rendering of that switch as it gets turned (So, they have the technical means to detect when a switch is flipped, but can’t do it remotely….)

Then there’s the surge water itself. As the water rushes in you can clearly see on their amazing Flash-animated graphic that the water quickly passes through the eastern part of London. Canary Wharf, Woolwich and Greenwich are all wiped out in the advancing surge. Curiously though, it’s six or more film hours before we next see that screen and it’s only got to Fulham in West London, yet the speed of the surge hasn’t particularly diminished.

The movie also takes advantage of a few gratuitious coincidences. The Thames Barrier manual override can only be activated by going into a room which is prone to flooding. Once in there, for “security” reasons the room becomes locked and you can’t escape, leading to certain death. All I can say is thank goodness the professor went. Any more of his melodramatic, miserable attitude and I’m sure somebody would’ve just pushed him into the water anyway.

The characters aren’t particularly engaging, except maybe the MET Office bloke who seemed to take an extraordinary amount of blame and got a beatdown from practically every other person there. No wonder he went for a long walk off a short rooftop, really. Robert Carlyle was meh and the professor, as previously stated, was the most depressing character I think I’ve ever witnessed.

Flood was shown last week on ITV1. Somehow they managed to stretch a reasonable-length movie over two nights of (I think) two hours each. The real comedy came at the credits, where ITV clearly felt necessary to show the Environment Agency hotline and tell the viewer “If you have been affected by any of the events depicted in tonight’s film please call…..” Come to mention it, I’m not normally surrounded by several feet of floodwater. I’ll just give them a ring.

So, all in all, the movie was pretty pants – but there also lies its success. It’s funny and takes itself far too seriously. I’ve seen the film for a few quid in the DVD bin at Tesco. If you want a laugh, I’d suggest picking it up.

Photo Issues

A few weeks ago I was in London for the day. For the first time … ever I was in London for no particular reason: no work, no meetings – I was just there. So, I decided to take my camera and have a wander.

Here’s the problem: despite London’s beautiful historic architecture, its wonderful city streets and its varied colours, characters and scenery, I took precisely two photos that day. One was of Blackfriars Bridge. The other was of the same bridge, taken two feet to the left.

Why? Well, I can be quite a surprisingly bashful person with a camera in hand. While I enjoy taking photos of people and places, I really don’t like being out in public with my camera. It makes me shy and I prefer to hide away in the safety of recesses and corners (which makes me look more like a stalker….). While I’ve become more confident over the years I’m still a little shy and very rarely pluck up the courage to take photos of strangers (or even of scenes where strangers just happen to be in-shot).

Despite being 6′-2″ and, well, large, I was actually quite worried about being mugged, pick-pocketed or otherwise the subject of casual street crime. I don’t know whether I was being daft or not, but I felt genuinely vulnerable with the camera round my neck.

My camera bag is a standard camera ruck-sack from Lowepro. It is not a convenient loader in that you have to take it off and lie it flat to put anything in, but storage-wise it suits me fine. The camera’s a Canon 350D so fairly big – it’s not a pocketable point & shoot by any stretch of the imagination, so it’s either around my neck and useable, or in the back and not.

So here’s my poser to you. If you take photos, how do you deal with this sort of thing? Were you originally shy, and did you find a particular way to overcome your fears? Am I being overly worried about walking around London with a DSLR slung over my neck?

Mashup Event Review

A few days ago I ventured into our glorious Capital to get a peek of some of the newest ventures in the UK tech/web industry. The event was organised by the folks of mashup* Event (that is Simon, Julia and Tony) and hosted at Sun Microsystems’ Regis House in central London.

After a long period of wandering chatting to various teams we convened in the presentation suite to begin the formal demos. To get through the number of demos (sixteen) in time each presentation was strictly limited to five minutes.

My entry was free on the condition I write about the event and the demos seen, which I’m naturally happy to do! But rather than pull this post out into one large article I’ll break it into bitesize chunks over a few days. This will also give me a chance to follow up on some bits and pieces.

Quick summary? Mobile phones and social networking are featured prominently, and often together. Community-building remains strong, and video is a featured (or core) aspect of many of these applications.

Mind the Gap on your Way Out

Emma Clarke, the voice of the Underground for eight years has been dropped by TfL after a number of parody ‘Mind the Gap’ announcements were found on her website.

“Here we are crammed again into a sweaty Tube carriage … If you’re female smile at the bloke next to you and make his day. He’s probably not had sex for months.”

Despite TfL’s apparant lack of humour, a spokesperson told the Evening Standard “London Underground is sorry to have to announce that further contracts for Miss Clarke are experiencing severe delays”

[Reuters] [via UK Mobile Report]

Update: While the Reuters article picked the spoof messages as the reason for dismissal, BBC News are claiming that the reason was “… because she has criticised the Underground system.”

LU said it would not be offering her further work but Ms Clarke said she had been “wildly misquoted”.

“[Ms Clarke] said she was “disappointed and perplexed” that LU had not contacted her but instead had decided to dismiss her via the media.”