ACS:Law and other dodgy organisations

Stories are reaching the mainstream news outlets now about the incredibly dodgy workings of ACS:Law. Their name is well known online amongst the geekier members of their community due to their shady tactics of trying to extort money from people for alleged illegal downloads. It has taken the crashing of their website and release of their unprotected email archives to expose exactly how underhanded and (to a large extent) illegal their operation is.

Judging from several reports, they could be facing a fine of around £500,000 for possibly the most serious breach of the Data Protection Act ever seen since the Act was put into force. BT are also in line for a kick in the teeth on that one.

What really got my goat, though, was the contents of the mail archives. They detailed numerous cases where the legal team attempted to force money out of people who they had absolutely no evidence against them. The letters were very much along the lines of the ones I was getting from ParkingEye (which I realise I’ve not detailed on here… that’ll be up soon).

Essentially, the letters stated that the person who paid for the internet connection was liable for illegal downloads on that connection which had taken place. And that if they coughed up £495 chosen as it was below the psychological £500 barrier), further action would not be taken. Otherwise there were threats of possible legal action, courts and so on.

This was, of course, bullshit.

One of the stories highlighted that ACS:Law were only targeting, in the first instance, people they reckoned had downloaded one particular music track, or porn. Any porn. So going for the embarrassment tactic, then.

Has anyone seen Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels? There’s a story given in a monologue that I’d heard of before the film and essentially it is this – to get a lot of cash, advertise something in the dirty magazines. Let’s say, huge double-ended sex toys for men. They’re twenty quid. You don’t have any – you just wait for people to pay you and hold the cash for a bit. Then you send out apologies (“sorry, our supplier let us down” or similar), and a cheque for £20. But the company the cheque is from is called “HUGE SEX TOYS FOR MEN WITH TINY PENISES plc” or something.

Most people will be too embarrassed to cash the cheque and will just write off the £20.

This is the tactic, I feel, that ACS:Law were using. Hit people with a “you or someone in your home was downloading copyrighted filth” charge and a lot of people may well have just blushed, lumped it and coughed up. Indeed, a lot did. Courtesy of the hideous lack of security on ACS:Law’s servers, the credit cards details, addresses and so forth of hundreds of these victims is up for grabs on the internet.

What ACS:Law have done is a mixture of incredible naivete (believing that it’s so easy to link an IP address to an individual) and bare-faced cheek. Reading the emails is, frankly, stomach-churning as you see just how disparagingly they treat their victims.

The whole tone is simply “can we get money out of these people?”. In so far as being a system of punishment, their methods are no better than speed cameras. You’re “guilty” until you can prove yourself innocent by incriminating someone else.

A complete and utter shambles, kicked off by a terrible system that allowed them to jump onto this money-making bandwagon in the first place. It’s only a terrible shame for those who’s details have been leaked that it took such a breach of their privacy for these disgusting tactics to be revealed to the general public.

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Best movie deaths

Bad Taste
Nope - you're in at number 2...

[second attempt at this article due to the new version of Google Chrome being shit and crashing]

I was driving home the other night and this topic was being discussed on the radio. It got me thinking – what are my favourite on-screen deaths? The ones below are pretty much off the top of my head and beware as there may be spoilers. Well, usually someone dying is pretty much a highlight of some films!

Feel free to add your own in the comments (on the original blog post or on facebook if you can’t figure out how to use the real internet). I also found a rather useful website at www.greatestmoviedeaths.com if you need some inspiration.

The Town

A current film and an excellent death scene for Jim. His final confrontation with the cops is complete suicide, but done with remarkably little gore. Instead, his corpse lies slumped with two tiny bullet holes dribbling blood.

Bad Taste

Peter Jackson‘s finest moment as both actor and director. Kevin plummets through the ceiling wielding a chainsaw, enters the head alien’s head and (eventually) exits through his arse, covered in guts.

Predator

Several great deaths, but the best for me is Dillon’s as his detached arm continues to fire a seriously wicked machine gun while he’s repeatedly shot.

Gremlins

Not even shown in the film, but a classic bit of cine-lore nonetheless. Kate tells the story of how her father went missing one Christmas and eventually turned up – halfway down the chimney dressed as Santa, arms full of presents and with a broken neck.

Final Destination

So many to choose from within the franchise, but the best is still “girl hit by bus” in the first one, purely for shock value. The first time you see it, you don’t know whether to jump, shriek or laugh.

Blade

One of the coolest “superhero” films ever made, and craps all over that Twilight nonsense as far as vampire flicks go. The opening sequence is a pure delight and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve watched it. Pick of the bunch in where Blade releases the glave, it swooshes round the tiled area and he catches it… then a handful of vampires collapse, their heads neatly severed.

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The Town

I’m starting to value my weekends now that I have a job, so it’s good to make the most of them. Up early doors to look after the U-14’s football (we won 1-7!) and then straight to the cinema to catch a film. Good days.

The Town

“We gotta do somethin’. I can’t tell you what it is, you can never ask me about it after we’re done, and we’re gonna hurt some people.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Bank robbery goes right, but an over-keen thief takes a hostage… who one of the other robbers falls for.

Ben Affleck‘s been busy on this one. Lead role, co-writer and director. Although he didn’t come up with the story – it’s based on a novel. The Town is a gritty crime drama seen mainly from the viewpoint of one of the conspirators with the occasional glimpse from the FBI.

Doug MacRay (Affleck) is a high school failure from Charlestown, a suburb which apparently bred more bank robbers than any other town in the world. Or America. Which is the same thing to Americans. He trialled for pro hockey, flopped and ended up following his father into a life of crime under local gang lord “The Florist” (Pete Postlethwaite).

Along with three friends, they’ve been taking apart banks ans armoured cars without hurting anyone. MacRay’s a nice guy. Aside from stealing from people and waving guns in their faces.

However, on one job co-thief Jim (Jeremy Renner) takes a bank clerk (Rebecca Hall) hostage. Released unharmed, he decides she needs “watched” to ensure she doesn’t cause any problems. MacRay takes control of this to make sure this doesn’t turn into a case of clearing up a loose end. After all, he’s the nice guy here.

Of course, he ends up doing a little more than just watching her – but then, he is such a nice guy.

Yes, there’s the theme of MacRay always trying to do the right thing. Which seems at odds with someone who robs banks armed with a semi-auto, but who says Hollywood has to make sense? After all they keep throwing money at talentless tossers like Ricky Gervais.

Anyway, barring this little issue the characters are pretty good and the film nicely paced. There’s plenty of action and the robbery, chase and other action sequences are very well filmed. I particularly liked the car chase after the armoured car robbery. It’s nice and claustrophobic with the cars trying to get round narrow streets, clipping corners.

The most interesting character, though, is hair-triggered Jim. Unpredictable, violent and you constantly feel like something is going to happen when he’s on-screen. Renner pulls the part off very well indeed. In comparison, Affleck is… well, he’s Affleck. Good enough, and I’m sure the ladies will swoon over him but it’s very much a by-the-numbers effort for him.

There’s a decent story here, a good bit of crossover of various elements, introduction of back-story about MacRay and very well done action sequences. It’s not the amazing piec of cinema that a lot of reviews are making it out to be, but it’s certainly a good bit of entertainment.

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World’s Greatest Dad

A possible return to form for Robin Williams, or a darkly un-funny comedy? Brought to you by the guy with the daft voice from the Police Academy films.

World’s Greatest Dad

“I like looking at vaginas.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Kyle’s a dick with a sex fixation, Lance is his father who tries his best to deal with it… and then overcompensates when things take a turn for the worst letting his life spiral out of control.

If you like your comedy black to the point where it exudes no light whatsoever, this is it. You could shove World’s Greatest Dad into a capsule, fire it into space and it would suck a black hole up. It’s that black.

Written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait (who also makes a small cameo), this is quite a weird film. It begins with Lance (Williams) walking in on his son, Kyle (Daryl Sabara), doing something he’d rather wish he’d not seen. This sets the film up to be some kind of American Pie derivative, but it couldn’t be further from it.

Kyle is a wanker. Erm, in more ways that one. He takes being a teenager to the extremes. Abusive, disrespectful, ignorant, rude – he’s the sort of kid nobody wants to end up with. In the UK we’d call him a chav. Lance realises what he’s stuck with and Williams plays the part of the put-upon father very well indeed.

To make Kyle’s life even worse, his father teaches in the school he attends. Lance’s English poetry class is flagging as students flock for the creative writing class run by charismatic Mr Lane (Henry Simmons), who also has an eye on Lance’s girlfriend, fellow teacher Claire (Alexie Gilmore). Oh, and Lance is also a failed author with five unpublished novels.

Without giving away the even that changes everything… an even happens that changes everything. All of a sudden, Lance is the centre of attention and his popularity is on the rise. The thing is, he gets this boost in popularity courtesy of a lie. The thing is, it wasn’t a bad lie. Or are all lies bad?

This is a well-crafted film with some clever segues between parts, superb acting and scenes you really shouldn’t laugh at but can’t help yourself. Williams is simply superb and the supporting cast aren’t half bad either.

I didn’t “get” Cyrus that I watched last week, but I’d put this into the same genre and much preferred it. As ever, films come down to taste and mine likes Robin Williams more than John C. Reilly.

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Not getting paid, Chris? Diddums.

A really awful DJ yesterday
A really awful DJ yesterday

I just read on the news that Chris Moyles had a bit of a rant on his radio show yesterday morning about not having been paid for two months. He was back on air this morning, standing by what he’d said the previous day, and defending himself with the statement that he’s “not a morning person”.

One could questions why a non-morning person is hosting a radio show that kicks off at 6:30am, but back to the topic in hand. Why has he not been paid?

He’s employed by the BBC which takes over £150 a year of most households’ money in license fees, a slice of which goes to the radio stations. A portion of this should be making its way into Chris Moyles’ bank account on a monthly basis. For some reason this hasn’t happened.

Is it an administrative cockup? A form not being filled? A banking error?

Personally, I’m assuming it’s a hint.

Chris – bugger off. You’re a shit DJ.

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