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Iain's bookshelf: read

Yellow Submarine Goodbye, Pert Breasts: The Diary of a Newborn Dad I Shall Wear Midnight: A Discworld Novel Action: Pulse Pounding Tales Volume 1 Tales of Unease (Wordsworth Mystery & the Supernatural) Bunker 10

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Captain America: The Winter Soldier / The Raid 2

120px-film-strip2We managed to get early showing tickets for The Raid 2 so decided to try and cram in the new Marvel film before it. And almost managed. Courtesy of the usual delays (work, kids, traffic), we missed the first ten minutes *grumble*

Captain America: The Winter Soldier

“This isn’t freedom. This is fear.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Fury and Rogers are framed for treason while bad guys try to take over the world.

See it if you like: Jason Bourne with super-strength

Producer Kevin Feige described the film as “a 1970s political thriller masquerading as a big superhero movie.” And I agree completely. There’s more of a story here than you get in many superhero films and the leading characters very much come across as pawns in a much bigger game.

Sure, it’s full of explosions and incredible CGI – plus one of the best car chases I’ve seen in recent years. And, yes, there’s a guy with a metal arm and another with a shield made of indestructible metal (how do they forge that stuff anyway?) who can fall 20 storeys without dying. But it’s still a thriller at heart and not a bad one.

As far as action films go, it’s up there with the best of the child-friendly ones. The fight sequences are very well done and I gather that as little CGI as possible was used for them. It shows, with realistic movement and punches and kicks that really crunch.

If there’s an issue, it’s that it’s just a bit too predictable. Macguffins are visible a mile off and as soon as certain plot aspects are revealed, the remainder of the story unfolds in your brain an hour before it’s happened. “Oh, right – so that’s the bad guy, that’s the plot, he’s really that person, those need to be dealt with, he’ll end up there…”. Without troubling you with a spoiler, if the hugely prominent “man filling vending machine” doesn’t make you realise that it’s going to be used as a plot device shortly then you need to watch more films.

Chris Evans is good as Cap, and seems to have improved with each film. Scarlett Johansson brings the Natasha Romanoff character through from Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, and cements her place in the big scheme of things leading up to the next Avengers movie. Cobie Smulders also plays a part in linking elements of the Marvel Universe together, playing AGent Mariah Hill as she has done in the S.H.I.E.L.D. show on TV as well as Avengers Assemble.

Simply, though, it’s a great couple of hours’ entertainment. I enjoyed it easily as much as the first couple of Iron Man films which is high praise, despite the predictability.

The Raid 2: Berandal

“It will be a few months. You can’t know where I am. And I can’t be seen anywhere near you.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: The surviving police officer from the first film is placed undercover working with a gangster’s son to try and uncover corruption… with predictably blood-squirty results.

The Raid was a superb film. Buttock-clenching tension, explosive violence, incredible athleticism and all in a claustrophobic setting. Its sequel takes the lead character (Rama, played by Iko Uwais) and throws him in jail, acting undercover to get close to the son of a gangster so that he can weed out police corruption.

First thing – this is not a rehash of its precursor. No attempt has been made to run with the formula and do it all again. This is a more intelligent film, with more plot twists and characterisation. The downside of this is that there are far too many long, slow sections in between the kick-ass action that we came to the cinema to see.

Funnily enough, this film was supposed to be made before “Redemption”, but funding ran out on that so director Gareth Evans had to switch to a smaller budget option. The script for “Berandal” was thus adapted to take start two hours after the first film ended, so it continues directly on from the action there. A third film is being planned.

The plot itself isn’t terribly complex, but there are a fair few characters to get your head around and – let’s be honest – everyone in the cinema was there for the fight sequences. Thankfully when they arrive, they are not disappointing.

As the film progresses, the violence gets harsher, more over the top and far more bloodthirsty. Slashings, stabbings and so on take over from kicks, punches and twisted limbs which littler the earlier sequences. It’s pretty splattery stuff.

One point in its favour is the final one-on-one fight scene. Where I found its equivalent in “Redemption” to be drawn out to the point where it lost it’s realistic edge, this one is far better. When it ended, the audience I was with almost seemed to exhale at once as if we’d been holding our breath. I heard one “ffuuuuuck….” and one or two people clapping briefly.

Even that, though, is topped by the car chase which is simply lovely. In a “Look at him die! Wow!” kind of way, at least.

Definitely worth seeing, but harder work to appreciate than the first film’s all-out non-stop action.

Glasgow Sheriff Court case SA1024/14 – Mr Iain Purdie v Amazon.co.uk

Amazon

Amazon (Photo credit: topgold)

Feel free to check this one out on what I assume will be public record once it’s over. Amazon are trying to keep me quiet on this one with a bribe… erm, “out of court settlement”, one condition of which is not telling people why they gave me the money I requested.

Sorry, I’m not going to shut up. Amazon have acted illegally, are currently acting illegally and will continue to do so as long as it’s in their financial best interests to do so. The general public has a right to know that Amazon refuse to recognise their legal responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act and that there are measures which can be taken to have goods repaired or replaced which have broken down outside of warranty.

Briefly, the tl;dr version:

  • You buy something expensive
  • It lasts 18 months – warranty was for 12
  • It’s a decent piece of kit (not a cheap knock-off), from a known manufacturer and you paid a fair bit for it. You – and any other person – would reasonably expect it to last for (say) 3-4 years
  • You can prove that the fault was inherent at the time of purchase and not the results of neglect, accidental damage, etc.
  • The retailer is liable to repair/replace under Sale of Goods Act
  • Amazon will deny this and try to foist you back at the manufacturer in the hope they may effect an out-of-warranty repair
  • It’s not the manufacturer’s responsibility – go to Small Claims Court instead
  • If you need to get a professional repair place to verify that the item did, indeed, have a faulty component then go ahead. You can claim any charge for this back as part of your case
  • Amazon will attempt to buy you off with an out of court settlement, but they will admit no liability while doing so. Accept or not, it’s up to you – but one of the terms is that you can’t tell people about how crap they’ve been.

Full version, including back-story:

In January 2012, I purchased an Asus Transformer Prime as a late xmas present for myself. It was a shade under £500, from a reputable manufacturer and their flagship product at the time. I’m not showing off – I’m justifying the fact that I’d expect it to last longer than a year and a half before packing in.

And pack in it did. In August 2013, it just died. It would boot as far as the opening screen and then sit there going no further. I tried a factory reset, reflashing the BIOS… nothing worked. I then looked online and found that this problem while not endemic wasn’t exactly uncommon. A faulty component on the motherboard caused it, and it was a “back to the manufacturer” job to get it fixed.

I checked and the warranty was the manufacturer standard (and legal UK minimum) of 12 months. I did enquire direct with Asus, but was told that even to have the fault diagnosed by their repair centre would set me back over £50 in courier fees – their repair centre is in Eastern Europe.

So I contacted Amazon, citing their responsibilities under the Sale of Goods Act; that if an item breaks down through an inherent fault present at the time of purchase, and has failed to last a “reasonable” length of time then the retailer is duty bound to organise a repair. That term “reasonable” is why I drew attention to the cost and brand of the tablet. If a knock-off £70 tablet I picked up on eBay that had been shipped from China broke down after 18 months, I’d chalk it up to experience. However, by buying a name brand I expected far better – and that’s reasonable.

However, and no small surprise, Amazon told me that as it was out of warranty it was of no concern to them and that I should try contacting the manufacturer who may choose to do an out of warranty repair out of the goodness of their own heart. I replied to this stating that they were having a laugh, re-directed them to the SoGA (which they’d failed to even address directly in their response) and got a reply I’ve had before: “send us the tablet and we’ll give you £75 of vouchers as a good will gesture”. And, of course, they’d probably refurb the tablet and have it on sale for twice that in a matter of weeks.

No, thanks.

Next stop was Trading Standards who told me that they’d had a ton of complaints about Amazon doing this, gave me a reference code, cited the regulations which Amazon were breaching and asked me to keep them updated. They also said I could go through my credit card company using the section 75 regulations by which they share the retailer’s responsibility.

I did start down this line, but gave up once I’d gathered further evidence as – damn it – it’s not MBNA’s fault that Amazon were being dicks. I don’t knw whether they would attempt to recoup the money from Amazon or just chalk it up. Either way, it was Amazon at fault, they’d not gone bust or anything and therefore I should be challenging them.

In fairness to MBNA, each time they came back to me it was to request more information or to say that some evidence I have given them wasn’t acceptable. And each time, it was for a legitimate reason which I could accept. For instance, I initially had a work colleague examine the tablet to locate the fault. However, as he was a friend and not a business, they wouldn’t accept his testimony. I get that, so I went to a shop who charged me £25 to tell me the same thing.

That’s the point where I just thought “screw this” and downloaded the paperwork to lodge a Small Claims case against Amazon. After a brief bit of research online, there seems to be a near 100% success rate taking this route and I know I’m in the right, so I sent the tablet off for repair so that I would be claiming back the correct amount.

This took almost four weeks (by now, we were into January…) and the repair bill was around £250. Add to this the cost of a registered post letter to Amazon with my initial complaint (as recommended by Trading Standards, the £25 diagnosis fee and the cost of lodging the case was £71. This I could also claim back. I also added to my claim interest at the “judicial rate” (set by the court and I have no idea how much it is).

After a bit of back and forth between myself and the court clerks who ensured I had the documentation spot on, it went to Amazon so that they could choose how to respond.

They did so with a letter stating that they’d refund all the money I was claiming for with the exception of the interest. But… they were accepting no liability for the actual reason I was making the claim. By accepting their cash, I would not be allowed to disclose to any third party the details of the settlement.

Basically, they’re like the rich kid in the playground who reckons he can get away with whatever the hell he likes by buying someone off.

Well, you know what? Screw you, Amazon. I’m in the right. You acted illegally. You continue to act illegally. You know you’re acting illegally because it’s cheaper for you to do so than treat people – your customers, the reason you’re rolling in cash – within the bounds of the law.

More people need to be aware of the fact that they have rights to refunds, repairs and exchanges; that they can claim these things direct from you and not the manufacturer; that they can go to Small Claims Court if they need to and know that the law is on their side.

And if I accepted your bribe – because, in my eyes and in my opinion (he stated very clearly - OPINION as permitted under libel legislation) that is what it is – I would not be able to tell people about these rights and option.

So I’m going to let it go to court. I don’t expect Amazon to send a lawyer – it’s too expensive and their bottom line is the only thing of interest to them. I don’t expect them to lodge a defence – they don’t have one. I expect them to be found liable for all the charges and for the reasons I set forward.

And I will then be able to tell you all that this works. That you don’t have to be screwed over by a big company just because it reckons it can ignore the law. More importantly I will be able to do it with a clear conscience because I went the right way about sorting it and ensured that a judgement was made at the end of the process.

Seriously, the Small Claims forms do take a while to fill in but it’s worth it to get the cash back. I’ve done the same with PC World in the past and got the same runaround and response. It’s cheaper for a company to fob you off than respond correctly. For every one person like me, there are a thousand who’ll just shrug and buy a replacement. And I bet a fair percentage of them will buy from the same retailer who just screwed them over.

I learned. I’m not buying any expensive items from Amazon again. Ever. John Lewis will be our first port of call for electronics now as they do a two year warranty as standard.

Thanks for the life lesson, Amazon. I hope a lot more people read this and take back from you what is rightfully theirs.

Happy Birthday, 2000AD

Cover of the first issue of 2000 AD, 26 Februa...

Cover of the first issue of 2000 AD, 26 February 1977. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For those who aren’t aware, 2000AD is a weekly sci-fi comic produced in the UK. Originally, I think, under the ownership of Fleetway – one of the biggest comic companies going in their day – it was more recently bought by Rebellion who have done an incredible job of raising its profile and ensuring that the publication will be around for many years to come.

Thirty seven. That means it was first published in 1977, the same year as Starburst magazine‘s first incarnation and some film called Star Wars. Indeed, 2000AD was released to jump on the sci-fi bandwagon created by George Lucas’ blockbuster. Such was the way back then – quick release, short run, then pinch the more popular characters to put them into your flagship title.

Only 2000AD surpassed all expectation and became a flagship title. Starlord was published to run alongside it as its peak, lasted a few months and a couple of still-familiar faces (including Strontium Dog) joined the ranks of 2000AD. Hell, even the mighty Dan Dare graced the pages of 2000AD for some time, in between incarnations of The Eagle.

But when did I start reading it? Given that I wasn’t even four years of age when the first issue came out, I’ve obviously not been reading it since day 1 – although I have managed to go back and fill in all the gaps with the help of pretty much all of my Christmas money one year.

I started reading in the early 80′s. I would have been 10-11 years old and to this day I cannot recall why I started reading. Therefore I’m blaming Tharg the Mighty and some kind of mind control device. I just remember going to the newsagent’s where I worked (Sunday deliveries) and asking them to hold it for me every week. I don’t even know if I’d read it before then. Maybe an annual or something.

Prog 446

What I do remember are little moments around then. One in particular was walking to school with my new issue. It was a sunny day, because I was with a friend and leafing through the pages. The cover depicted Messerschmitts attacking Mega City 1 after flying through some kind of hole in time. After a quick Google, I’ve found this to be prog 446 from November 1985. Not my first issue, but one I remember for some reason.

Then there was the short-lived Diceman series which jumped onto the “Fighting Fantasy” bandwagon. Comic-quality storylines involving choosing your own path, sometimes with combat based on rolling dice. Brilliant.

Judge Dredd got his own fortnightly title in 1990 (the “Megazine”) which, though now monthly, is also still going strong. He was played by Stallone in a risible film in the 90′s and again, far better, in last year’s “Dredd” – but was one of the key influences on the original RoboCop. Dredd has battled aliens from Mars, Batman, the Joker, Lobo, Aliens and a Predator or two. He’s also featured in at least two computer games, a role playing game and a desktop wargame. Then there’s his musical influence (the band Mega City 4 and Anthrax’ “I Am The Law” to name but two).

Rogue Trooper has ended up as a computer game and a desktop game, Strontium Dog ended up in development hell as an idea for an ongoing TV show.

But it’s not just the characters. A huge number of writers and artists making their way in US comics cut their teeth in the pages of 2000AD. It’s a testing ground, and still a risk-taker – something that the “big two” in American comics can’t afford. They’ve tried stuff that’s fallen utterly flat… but, hey, it’s an anthology comic so there are always other stories in the issue to back it up.

For a single title to last this long is staggering. To maintain ongoing quality and to be making a bigger imprint on other media now than it ever has is incredible.

I’m the proud owner of a (near) complete collection of the weekly comics, annuals, spin-offs and so on. The amount of merchandise these days is a little out of my budget, but I did get a fantastic Dredd-themed cake for my birthday and treated myself to a similar tattoo last year. I can’t wait until our son is a bit older so we can start going through all these old comics that dad keeps in the loft and share the excitement I had reading them for the first time.

So happy birthday, 2000AD. Thirty seven years old and in far better shape than I am at forty. Long may you reign!

RoboCop (2014)

120px-Film-strip2Ah, remakes. For when you haven’t got an original idea in your head. After an enjoyable couple of hours at a Yelp! meeting (free food and drinks, yay) we had time to run over to Cineworld and catch the RoboCop reboot.

RoboCop (2014)

“I wouldn’t buy that for a dollar.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Man creates robots. Then Man put man into robots. Then man in robot tries to show he’s more man than robot.

See it if you like: sub-standard rehashes of classic ideas

OK, wasn’t going to compare this reboot / re-imagining / rehash to Paul Verhoeven‘s classic 1987 original. Mainly because, barring the most basic of premises, there’s little in common between the two. However…

The satirical view of a dark future is gone to be replaced by something that looks like it could be set next week but with bigger buildings. The closest to the interjected fake TV ads are the comments running under the news items – and even they are repeated throughout the film. A bit poor given that one news report is supposedly being broadcast months before another. Besides, some of them are just poor jokes rather than biting witticisms.

I can’t fault the cast – it’s not their fault that the story is just so “by the numbers” as to be bordering on dull. The collection of Wall Street-esque self-centred men in suits who care nothing for their cyborg creation has been replaced by one corporate head (Michael Keaton) and a few hangers-on who aren’t even annoying enough to be yes-men.

The special effects are also rather good… mostly. It’s painfully obvious when Joel Kinnaman‘s “man in a suit” is replaced by a fully CGI RoboCop. However, the updated ED-209 units are definitely more evil and realistic than those from 1987.

I enjoyed the opening sequence, but after that the film just lost it with no real central bad guy. The original had two, this one has one bad-guy’s worth of character split between two individuals, one of whom hardly gets any screen time.

Stepping back, it was OK to watch but just nowhere near as satisfying as it could have been. It’s also not as bad as the risible RoboCop 3 (let’s just pretend that didn’t happen). However, they also don’t have the excuse that they had to rush out a quick sequel to make some cash like Orion did back in the day. In fact, the budget for this version jumped from $60m to $120m. Part of the problem is the 12A/PG-13 rating that the studio insisted on, but that can’t be blamed for the unimaginative script.

Taken on its own merits, it’s watchable. Put into context alongside its aging source material and it’s very weak indeed.

New Year, New Start

I think I’ve mentioned before, but this blog’s turned into more of a film review thing than an actual “blog”. Very little in the way of random or personal posts like it used to be back in the day. Work, family and all that get in the way as you get older!

Family is what this post is about.

See, 2013 lived up to the unlucky last two digits. It wasn’t great – though it had its upsides – but what downsides it did have majorly outweighed them. Worst is that they were, in the main, down to me.

You see, I’m married to the most amazing woman you could hope to meet. We have three of the most staggering, beautiful, wonderful kids anyone could ever wish for. We share a house with my mother-in-law who does so much for us and asks nothing in return. My folks, as well, jump through hoops for us when needed. The phrase “beyond the call of duty” could have been coined with them in mind.

This year I’ve let them all down. Things are not going swimmingly in our household at present and I have a lot of work to do to make things right. Putting up this blog post is one step in that direction. Essentially, I like to paint a rosy picture of how things are going – and in fairness I’m incredibly lucky to have the life that I do. As such I like to emphasise the positive notes. But underneath, I’ve let a lot slide this year. Done some things I’m not proud of, hurt people I love and risked everything I have for… well, nothing of any import. Don’t worry, it’s nothing illegal but beyond that it wasn’t anything I want to discuss in detail.

Essentially I’ve been a crap husband, a poor father and a really shitty son. While I have tried on some occasions and done the right thing, I’ve been bloody awful on far more and my lows are significantly lower than the highs have peaked. I am very lucky to still have Gillian with me. Hell, I don’t know why I do. I guess it just highlights exactly how lucky I am to have her.

This isn’t a post to gather sympathy or “it’s OK, we’ve all been there” comments. This is a post to let people know that I am on shaky ground, that I’m not as nice a person as I often make myself out to be and that I need to change. I need people to be aware of this and hopefully that will help me in some way towards righting the wrongs and moving our family on so we can leave 2013 well in the past where it belongs.

I don’t “do” new year’s resolutions, but this seemed as good a time to post this as any other. My job this year is to improve me for the benefit of those around me. To give back to them what they’ve given me and to prove to them that I deserve them. Trust me when I say that I’m aware it will be an uphill struggle and I have my work cut out to “fix” things.

Gillian is a woman who deserves to wake up every morning knowing how much she’s loved. She should be happy every minute of every waking day. Over the last year she’s been in tears more often than I can count, and is very much not in a “happy place”. Our first wedding anniversary passed without the slightest blip on the radar as it wasn’t something she felt that she wanted to celebrate.

This is all due to me and I have a limited time to sort it (and myself) out otherwise I will lose her. That’s it in a nutshell.

As I said, it’s been a while since I posted anything really personal on here, so I’m hoping I’ve not bored people to death.