Who knew?

Two recent things I’ve really, really enjoyed:

Infected Mushroom – Converting Vegetarians

I’ve been listening to Infected Mushroom since 1999, when they released their first full-length album, The Gathering. I’m often bored by four-on-the-floor techno, but this album really caught my attention. You could tell they didn’t take themselves too seriously, and the songs were fun, and well written and produced. Their next album was in the same vein, especially with tracks like Dracul, where an orchestral sample from the score of Dracula turns acapella mid-way through the song.

I had a chance to see them live, and their show was nothing short of incredible. Their last two albums, however, were ‘serious’ trance, and not very interesting at all. And so, I mourned for the loss of yet another electronic act destroyed by a desire to be accessible.

Which brings me to Converting Vegetarians. This is a double-cd release, the first disc consisting of ‘old school’ Infected Mushroom tracks. Very blippy, goofy, and not at all self-involved. Fantastic, but not too interesting unless you’re a fan of the style (which I am). The second cd is mainstream trance, complete with uplifting synth lines, and cheesy female vocals. Chord progression, and all that. Fantastic, but not too interesting unless you’re a fan of the style (which I am not).

Overall, the album is excellently accomplished, and intelligent. Regardless of which style you prefer in your goa-slash-psytrance, there’s at least an hour of music you’ll enjoy. Listen to it.

Equilibrium

This is a first film by Kurt Wimmer, who wrote, directed, and kicked my ass. Seriously, this film would have been an instant sci-fi/dystopian classic if Dimension Films had marketed it whatsoever. I had never heard of it before I stumbled across it in a binaries newsgroup, and I thought it’d be a funny Matrix rip-off that’d be worth a few laughs. Instead, I got the ass-kicking.

This is simply one of the best movies I have ever seen. Visually, it’s beautiful. Set in an Orwellian post-war world, the visuals mix imposing real-life architecture (Hitler’s Olympic Stadium) with paintings instead of models, giving the setting a washed-out, surreal feel. The action sequences show the first real innovation in film gunfights since Bullet Time, or when Chow-Yun Fat first jumped onto a dolly with two handguns. All the actors are perfect (really, perfect) in their roles, and the lighting is the best I’ve seen since a Coen film.

Wimmer manages to do more with a ridiculously short shooting window and a tiny budget than most action directors have ever done. No distracting CGI, no wires (really – no wires), and for at least half the action sequences, no choreographer and no rehearsal time. The only thing more impressive than the movie itself is that it came out of production conditions terrible enough to sink most films.

In addition, the movie is brilliant. Obviously drawing from Bradbury, Huxley, P. K. Dick and other great dystopian writers, the world this movie is set in gives me the same chills that I felt the first time I read 1984. The plot is simple, but the narrative is complex, and repeated viewings reveal insight and subtleties into the motivations of the characters.

I’ve seen a dozen reviews that have called it the worst piece of cinema since Battlefield Earth, but I can’t say enough good things about this film. It’s science fiction, it’s dystopian literature, and it’s a fantastic action movie. Rent it. Buy it. If you can’t find it, I’ll give you a copy. Just watch it.

2 thoughts on “Who knew?

  1. Point of note: how easy/difficult did you find it to get it off the alt.bin newsgroups?

    I am in the middle of grabbing it via BitTorrent (my new favorite toy) which never ceases to amaze me due to its consistently high transfer speeds (it’s running at about 60kb/sec, but it’s hit 150kb/sec at times).

    Are the newsgroup versions released with PAR’s (Parity ARchives) ?? I must say that I’m impressed with the development of PAR files… software RAIDs.. but the problem with UseNet is that there’s so many groups, I mean … for “movies”, there’s:
    alt.binaries.dvd
    .dvd.rips
    .dvd2svcd
    .dvdrip
    .dvdrip.only
    .svcd
    .svcd.yenc
    .vcd
    .vcd.dvd-rip
    .vcd.highspeed
    .vcd.svcd
    .vcd.yenc
    .vcdz

    It reminds me of when they first started the whole alt.binaries.pictures.erotica hierarchy, and subsequently the alt.binaries.sounds.mp3 series… Bork.bork.bork

    It certainly puts a lot of stress on the whole internet, don’t you think? Just about every ISP has a half decent NNTP server (my shitty one “only” has ~31k newsgroups) which translates to *ALL* these movies being transferred to *ALL* the ISP’s *ALL* the time. The BitTorrent approach seems an extension of the P2P idea that Napster started, but speeds things up a bit. Actually, quite a bit.

    This is where one starts thinking about the I2 .. Internet 2 that some academics were tossing around a while back. Think of what the CANARI (oh, shoot, I forget exactly what the acronym was…) project has come along to be. It was the Canadian version of ARPANet, but now it’s really .. and I mean REALLY.. good. There’s some blazingly fast connections between uni’s in Canada. I’m talking gigabit. There’s also the SHARK project in Ontario, which has clusters of supercomputers connected over the internet.
    How much better could the internet be if we (as users) controlled what content moved back and forth? How much more bandwidth would we gain by losing the spam, porn and warez?

  2. I have 3Mbit DSL and Rogers@Home, of which I find only @Home to be useful for binaries. I mostly visit alt.binaries.svcd and alt.binaries.monter-movies (not a typo) for my movies, because everything there is fantastic image/sound quality. I find out what’s new via vcdquality.com, and find where it is via alt.binaries.nl (the website, not the newsgroup). And yes, there are par files.

    The problem I have with BitTorrent is that the files I want are never seeded properly. I spent 3 days trying to download Battle Royale Special Edition, but everyone who had the full file logged off before anyone else could get it. So, no file for anyone. There’s no persistance to it, which I think is important for filesharing.

    As for Internet2, it’s alive and well. Recently set a speed record, too. 6.7GB across 11,000km in under a minute.

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