VIDEO Shall We Dance Japanese director Masayuki Suo followed up the success of Sumo Do Sumo Don't with this delightful romantic comedy. While Sumo concentrates on the humorous aspects of wimps learning to wrestle, Shall We Dance explores the comedic potential of a group of people who, for various reasons, decide to take up ballroom dancing. This is a very different film from Strictly Ballroom, with its themes of triumph and excellence easily obtained a la Hollywood. Shall We Dance is about the trials and tribulations involved in becoming merely passable at ballroom dancing. As with Sumo this is a tale of average people striving hard to find self-fulfillment. The story centres on Soyhei Sugiyama, a 'salaryman' who has sold his soul to his company so he can take on a mortgage. He has a daughter, and a kind wife. What he does not have is a life. He commutes, works, pays the money into the bank for the mortgage. He gets home dead tired after a gruelling journey home on packed commuter trains. Desperately in search of excitement and stimulation, he one night spots a beautiful woman (Tamiyo Kusakari) looking wistfully out of a window with 'Ballroom Dancing Classes' written on it. On a whim, he goes to the dance school, with no interest in dancing and every intention of trying to seduce the woman, Mai. Shall We Dance is a real delight of a film. Deftly, and hilariously, it tackles themes such as the real nature of betrayal, the mid-life crisis, the changing attitudes of Japan's businessmen towards their work and lifestyle, and the joys and delights of expanding one's horizons. Director Suo is obviously deeply affectionate towards his characters, treating each with tenderness and sympathy. It all adds up to a film that you should see. MUSIC Heavily Echo Various Artists (Golden Pony) This excellent compilation, care of Hong Kong's Jonathan Yuen, showcases some of the best alternative music around. If you are tired of the predictable sounds clustered at the top of the pop charts then invest in Heavily Echo and have your faith in popular music restored. The disc features cracking tracks from great bands such as Mokoko, Babybird and Mono, and top artists like Melanie Garside and that near-legendary nutter, Julian Cope. Any album with a Cope cut has to be worth investing in. And those who equate alternative music with atonal rackets, fear not. This album is musically challenging, yet accessible - and it will introduce you to a set of artists who have long deserved greater exposure. BOOKS Climbing Mount Improbable Richard Dawkins (Penguin) Mount Improbable is scientist Richard Dawkins' metaphor for natural selection, Charles Darwin's extremely durable theory of how creatures evolve. Darwin's theories have recently come under a lot of pressure thanks to the fuzzy logic of the chaos theory. What Dawkins does here is use a persuasive narrative style to clearly state Darwin's theories still work, and do so elegantly and faultlessly. He is a genuinely gifted storyteller, and in Climbing Mount Improbable he uses this gift to examine and de-construct such evolutionary miracles as the compound eye, flight, spider's webs and the huge variety of mollusc shells that currently exist. By the end of each examination, the miraculous element has been done away with and Dawkins simply leaves us marvelling at the inventive logic of mother nature. A must-read for both professional and layman alike, Climbing Mount Improbable is that rarest of things, an erudite and instructive book that also entertains. Drink With The Devil Jack Higgins (Signet) I went through this during an overnight flight to North America, and while the grey matter was never taxed, at no stage was I bored, either. This Higgins thriller is another tale of Sean Dillon, ex-IRB terrorist, current British secret service agent. Dillon is a tough nut, a dead shot, and deeply cynical about political movements, so he decided to sell out to the Brits and knock off anyone they instruct him to. In Drink With The Devil, Dillon is up against the loyalist forces of Ulster as well as the American mafia. A decade before, a shipment of loyalist gold was sunk off the coast of Ireland. Only one man knows where the gold is, and he has just been liberated from a US prison by the mafia. Dillon has to follow him from America and kick some organised crime butts.