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  1. Well not quite, but it’s coming! And yeah it’ll be a load of streams this year again (some officially part of E3 and some suspiciously round the same time but definitely not anything to do with E3 oh no sir) but I wanted to get some hype going anyway. So predictions? Will it be a bit of a let down because of covid or are we gonna get some big new-gen flex? edit: E3 2021 schedule overview From VGC: Saturday, June 12, broadcast pre-show starts at 10am PT / 1pm ET E3 2021 will kick off with press conferences from Ubisoft and Gearbox Entertainment, as well as a session with GamesBeat. Sunday, June 13, broadcast pre-show starts at 8:45am PT / 11:45am ET Microsoft’s long-awaited Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase will take place starting at 10am PT / 1pm ET. Fans can also look forward to special presentations from SQUARE ENIX, the PC Gaming Show and the Future Games Show. Warner Bros. Games & Back4Blood and 24 Entertainment will also be featured. Monday, June 14, broadcast pre-show starts at 8:00am PT / 11:00am ET Alongside press conferences from several indie developers, presentations from Take-Two Interactive, Mythical Games, Freedom Games, Razer and Capcom will take place throughout the day. Verizon and Intellivision will also be featured, along with a session with VENN. Tuesday, June 15, broadcast pre-show starts at 8:00am PT / 11:00am ET The last day of E3 will include Nintendo’s Nintendo Direct and Nintendo Treehouse: Live programming starting at 9am PT / 12pm ET. BANDAI NAMCO, Yooreka Games and GameSpot will also have focused events. The broadcast will round out with the Official E3 2021 Awards Show. (Worth noting Geoff Keighly has his Summer Games Fest kickoff on the 10th too)
  2. I don't get to watch many movies these days. Over the last few months, I have occasionally managed to watch a couple of films on Netflix, generally over the course of a few nights after my kid has gone to bed. At this time of night I actively avoid anything I think will be too deep or interesting, and gravitate towards mindless fare. I don't have the energy to properly enjoy anything that's actually good. As a result, I've watched Creed (pretty good, a generally satisfying reboot of the Rocky franchise with a lot of heart and a sackfull of lovely cliches, but completely forgettable) Captain America The Winter Soldier (competent superhero movie, feels weirdly lopsided and it's very obvious that it needs to keep moving fast to outrun the plot-holes) and X-Men Days of Future Past (bewildering nonsense, but again fairly enjoyable as long as you're not trying to follow what's happening and ignore some strange logical leaps. Also, Jennifer Lawrence is really good as Mystique, managing to give a character which had previously been little more than a pair of blue-painted boobs some actual humanity.) However, the film I want to review today is one I am much more familiar with, having watched it several dozen times over the past few weeks. It is the modern masterpiece Thomas And The Great Race. As I type this, the end credits have just finished rolling, and the movie is being restarted from the beginning by my home's resident three-foot-tall curator of culture. For the uninitiated, The Great Race is not a remake of the Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis movie of the same name, which I believe spawned the Wacky Races cartoon. It is in fact the tale of a great railway show which attracts talking engines from around the world, including Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends from the island of Sodor. A word of warning: This review will contain spoilers, as I intend to discuss specific plot-points, so if you are keen to avoid spoilers, you should watch the movie before reading this piece. There's a lot that could be written about the world of Thomas and Friends. Not just about why the engines can talk, but also how they are created (are they made or born?) the role of the humans, the pollution that must be destroying Sodor, and the appalling safety record of the Fat Controller's railway. The level of sentience and autonomy of the engines is wildly inconsistent. Early on, The engines were definitely controlled by their drivers - in an early episode Thomas sets off without his driver, and as a result is out of control and can't stop. There are also early examples of the humans asserting their dominance in other ways. For example, one engine is famously bricked-up in a tunnel as a punishment for refusing to work in the rain. Just think about that. Another time, an unreliable engine that bumps about too much on the track is turned into a stationary generator, left forgotten behind a shed near a closed-down quarry. More recently, the engines seem to be in control, and are certainly making decisions for themselves over where they go, braking and accelleration, and that sort of thing. However they still have drivers. What is their role? Presumably they are mindless thralls, doomed to serve their engine masters. At one point Thomas jumps over an opening moving bridge, something that must surely have been incredibly dangerous, and much much more dangerous for the humans on board than Thomas himself. Steam engines don't have airbags, so I shudder to consider the mess inside the cab. This is glossed-over in the movie. There are at least some humans in Thomas and Friends that retain their autonomy. It's not quite as bleak as the terrifying dystopian vision presented in Chuggington. In that show, which I think is a bit dark for children, the engines have completely taken over the world and covered virtually every inch of it in train tracks. There is no suggestion that the Chuggington trains even transport humans around - they simply carry out the eternal charade of "training" to be passanger trains. As far as I can tell, there is only one human left in Chuggington world, the one who washes the engines. Presumably he sold out humanity for the promise that he would be allowed to live, and was given that demeaning role in the post-revolutionary world, despised by the engines, and trapped by the crippling knowledge that his treachery doomed his own people. But this isn't the place for speculating over the lich-like mind control powers of the engines over their enslaved humans, or the mating habits of 50-tonne industrial machines, or why some cars and other machines have sentience and others don't, or whether the whole thing is a delusion dreamed up by a deranged Fat Controller as he sits dribbling in a secure facility. We're here to talk about The Great Race. Thomas first finds out about the great railway show when fellow engine Gordon's brother turns up to boast about his participation. Gordon's brother is real-world famous engine The Flying Scotsman, and looks a bit like Henry Cavill. All the engines immediately want to be selected for the show, which leads to a number of excellent musical numbers. Resident bad engine Diesil contributes a particularly memorable song, complete with some genuinely funny couplets. (They used to call me devious / because I had a bit of previous) Thomas' song, Streamlinin' is a take on Greased Lightning from Grease but without the swearing. (There really is swearing in Greased Lightning! Google the lyrics if you don't believe me.) The Gilbert and Sullivan-esque Will You Won't You Take Me To The Railway Show isn't as strong, consisting mainly of an excuse to get as many of the multitudinous cast of the TV show in the film without having to give them each an individual cameo scene. Just as tensions are running high over the railway show, things are ramped up a notch when all the show engines accidentally arrive on the island. I feel I should take the time here to point out something that is very much to the film's credit - the vague message of mulitculturalism, and the idea that engines from other cultures are just like the ones from Sodor, and their foreign nature only makes them exotic and interesting. Unbelievably, there was some Daily Mail/Gamergate outrage about the movie thrusting multiculturalism down our throats. Seriously. The film doesn't make a big deal of this, it simply assumes that engines (and perhaps therefore people) from all over the world can get along well and be friends. Some people saw this as insidious. Isn't the modern world brilliant? Anyway, the show engines carry on to the main land, accidentally leaving one behind on Sodor. This new arrival is the brightly-painted and disturbingly sexy engine from India, Ashima. Thomas immediately takes against her, so you know they're going to get it on by the end of the movie. Also, I should mention that I'm not joking about her being disturbingly sexy. She's hot. I wouldn't normally admit to being sexually attracted to mechanised transport, but hoooo-boy I would definitely buff her funnel. Is that metaphor the wrong way around? Lets move on. This is where the movie's other message comes into play. Thomas spends the middle part of the movie trying to change himself into something he is not, whether that be a faster engine capable of competing in the great race, or one that is beautifully decorated to participate in the parade. He becomes more and more disatisfied with himself, culminating in a bleak duet between him and Ashima, You Can Only Be You. Thomas wrestles with depression over such lines as, Why do I have to be me? Is this what I'm really meant to be? Break me, Shake me Take me all apart And find a better place to start He complains about his stumpy funnel, boiler and dome while Ashima tries to reassure him that he doesn't need to be bigger or stronger: "You think if you were just a little longer / You'd have more railway show appeal" Interestingly, this is the second Thomas movie in a row that features a song with the central message that size isn't important, after The Lost Treasure of Sodor's classic tune Never Overlook a Little Engine. Sample lyrics: "If you think that bigger's better / Then you're making a mistake / The ocean isn't wetter than a tiny little lake / A cherry might be tastier than a great big cake" Ashima is unable to talk Thomas out of his suicidal musings and ends up telling him to be quiet, and that he must accept who he is, as there isn't any alternative anyway. It's unclear whether the message is to accept who you are, or simply an ode to mediocrity and the futility of any attempts at self-improvement. Nice tune though. In the end, Thomas misses out on selection for the show, but ends up gatecrashing it anyway, as he rushes to deliver a vital safety part to Gordon, who is competing in the race. The show section is pretty spectacular, with lots of trains, and some hijinks and funny scenes involving Phillip the tram engine and Vinny the big engine from New York who tries to kill him. It sounds grim, but it is funny! There's a nice running gag as the Fat Controller repeatedly fails to notice that Thomas is at the show, instead getting distracted by his reflection in the trophy, or his hat blowing off. The culmination is Thomas competing in the shunting competition against Ashima. I won't spoil the dramatic ending! Suffice to say, no-one dies. Except presumably Thomas' driver in the bridge jump. I've watched all the Thomas and Friends movies a number of times, and in my opinion this one is top of the pile. The songs are great, the jokes are funny, and the message is a good one. Plus Ashima is really sexy, as I might have mentioned. Other childrens movies try to straddle the divide between entertaining the children and the adults, but few do it succesfully. Pixar only really made two genuine kids films - Cars and Cars 2. The likes of Monsters Inc and Up aren't for kids, they're animated adult films. Not adult films in that way you monster. The Cars films aren't even that great as kids films - they're too cheesy, not funny enough, and the main character is odious and doesn't really learn his lesson. The first one is a boring remake of Doc Hollywood, and the second has a far-too-dense spy plot. The Great Race doesn't bother trying to give the adults anything (apart from sexy Ashima and the song about wanting a cosmetic enlargement) and instead concentrates on being a great kids film. It pulls it off so well that it becomes an entertaining watch for adults as well just by virtue of being such a high-quality piece of family entertainment. I can report that it stands up to repeated viewings. Many, many repeated viewings. It's just being started again. Third time today.
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