Red / Burke and Hare / Easy A

Assuming that M Law Solicitors don’t demand I take down this blog post for defaming a film for giving it bad reviews (as they did with my post regarding Parking Eye, which I still maintain wasn’t defamatory as it was in the public interest), please enjoy the following catch-up from the last 2 weeks’ abuse of my Cineworld pass.

Red

“Time to open up the pig”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: a group of retired secret agents take on the CIA to find out who’s put them on a “to be killed” list.

This is another in the current run of bigger-than-life action films that seem to be putting bums on seats at the moment. It’s also one of the best, mainly due to a novel idea and a superb cast. Come on – Helen Mirren with guns? How can that not be cool?

The rest of the eldsters are played by Bruce Willis, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman. Freeman could be in the biggest cinematic turd in history and would still make his sequences worth watching, but fortunately Red is no such bum-dropping and is instead just good fun.

There’s plenty of action and it makes full use of the common trend of using CGI rather than stuntmen to a large degree. I still prefer more old-school effects (Raiders is the best Indy film by a mile for several reasons, this being one of them), but it doesn’t stop Red being any less enjoyable.

Definitely go see.

Burke and Hare

“That… would be an artery”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Two Irish guys stumble across a nice way of making money – selling corpses to a medical school. Only what happens when they run out of fresh meat?

Honestly, can Simon Pegg do know wrong? I honestly don’t think I’ve seen him in a film I’ve not enjoyed yet. When you add the likes of Andy Serkis and Tim Curry to the cast, then top it off with Ronnie Corbett it would take some kind of miracle to destroy it. Get John Landis to direct and you may as well buy your ticket without seeing a review.

Burke and Hare is perfect Halloween fodder. It’s set in the 19th century, it’s grisly, it’s tasteless and it’s funny. I’d not recommend it for younger kids due to some of the scenes being a little too “eeeeewww” but other than that it’s superb.

There are loads of little references in the background (Greyfriar’s Bobby makes an appearance) and the original historical tale does make for decent film material, even if the facts have been moulded somewhat.

Looking at the other horrors available this Halloween, this has to be the best of the bunch.

Easy A

“That’s the one thing that trumps religion… capitalism”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: shy teen pretends to nob schoolmates for cash/vouchers until it all goes too far

I didn’t expect to enjoy this, despite the trailer being “OK”. After all, it’s a teen-girl-at-a-school film, and they’re pretty formulaic. I just went as it was on at a good time for me to fill 90 minutes of an afternoon.

Oh, I love it when I’m proved wrong.

Easy A has a fantastic script, beautiful dialogue, an in credible wit and a decent story. Emma Stone is excellent as Olive, the girl who gets talked into pretending to sleep with a gay classmate to stop him being bullied for his sexuality. Who then recommends him to others, until she’s made out to be the school slut.

The supporting cast are all well-played from her hilarious family, to the wise-cracking English teacher and the bonkers Christian brigade. There genuinely is not a dull moment.

While Olive does bemoan the fact that her life story wasn’t directed by John Hughes, it could have been. It’s that good.

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Legal action against my blog

[UPDATE – some kind soul has also archived the post on the facebook page “You Don’t Have To Pay Parking Tickets – Spread The Word!” Thank you to them…]

For those unaware (i.e. those who don’t follow me on Twitter or Facebook), my host (that would be One&One) received a “take down” notice the other day. It relates to this post on the blog, was issued by M Law solicitors and is on behalf of [company I can’t mention].

As of midday Monday 25th October, that post has to be removed or my blog will be taken down wholesale.

So, I’ve taken the precaution of backing everything up. And posting the entire text of the post here and here. The former is MoneySavingExpert.com, a well known consumer action group with an actual legal team who would happily tell M Law to go check their rulebook as there’s no grounds for removing the post. The latter is the lovely Shelli’s blog and is hosted in the US where they still seem to have laws that protect freedom of expression.

Do note that the original postings from which my blog post was put together are still available (at the moment) on PePiPoo.com – although I gather they’ve also received a take-down notice. For a large portion of their site. PePiPoo are a consumer action website featuring complaints relating to vehicles, parking and so on. As such there is a lot of potential defamation up there… if you regard “criticism” as “defamation”.

I should be grateful that One&One didn’t just hoik my blog out from under me, as I have heard has happened to other people with other hosts. However, after repeated requests they have so far failed to furnish me with the exact text of the demands from M Law – to whit, what precisely is allegedly “defamatory” about the post. I think I am legally entitled to this information. I’m not an allegedly dodgy parking company (as alleged by pretty much every website you’ll find by Googling their name, including BBC’s Watchdog) with the money to spend on lawyers so I can’t be 100% sure.

One&One, however, are taking the easy route and assuming guilt without giving me a chance to prove innocence. At least, that’s the way I see it. I don’t wish to appear defamatory, and part of me can see it from their point of view. It’s easier to get me to do something than to fight my battle for me, regardless of whether said battle is right or wrong.

In the meantime, the blog post – which, on Tuesday had been read maybe 30-40 times since it was posted, has now gone past the 400 views mark. That is not including viewings of the post on PePiPoo, MSE (another 130) or Shelli’s blog. That makes a more than ten-fold increase in readers simply due to their actions to try to stop people reading it.

[company I can’t mention] – if you wanted to avoid bad publicity then you went very much the wrong way about it!

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Alter Bridge / Bowling For Soup

Alter Bridge - Glasgow 5
Alter Bridge – Glasgow

I’m a little short on time so I’m just going to cram these two reviews into the same blog post.

Alter Bridge – Glasgow O2 Academy, 16th Oct 2010

I just caught the tail end of Slaves To Gravity when I arrived and they had the crowd going, and seemed OK. The venue was pretty much packed, no surprise with it being a sell-out, but there was still a lot of room to walk around and find a good position.

The headliners hit the stage around 9:30 for a 90 minute set. They’re not a glamorous, special effects-heavy band instead relying on belting out some good songs to keep the crowd happy. The set list was quite heavy on new material from the album ABIII which had only been out for about a week at the time of the gig. Lunacy on the part of the record company, but – as Myles Kennedy stated towards the end – the crowd reacted well and enjoyed it nonetheless.

Of course, the most pleasing reaction was for the better known material and there was plenty of it. If I had to pick three highlights, they’d be Blackbird“, “Ties That Bind” and the acoustic version of “Watch Over You“. The latter raised the hairs on the back of my neck, just like the first time I heard Linkin Park‘s Chester Bennington singing “Pushing Me Away” accompanied only by keyboards.

However, it did raise one issue I’ve had with the O2 cademy before – the acoustic track was the only one where I could easily make out the vocals. Machine Head suffered the same issue a few months ago.

It’s not that the sound’s too loud – the bass, drums and guitar solos were all clear. For some reason, though, the vocals had been set at a level around the same as the music and so became buried. A hell of a shame as Kennedy’s got a great voice and part of the appeal of Alter Bridge are the excellent lyrics.

Not the band’s fault, I suppose, and it only took the gloss off an excellent performance. The new album is easily on a par with the first two, as well.

Bowling For Soup – Glasgow O2 Academy, 17th Oct 2010

Bowling For Soup - Glasgow 3
Bowling For Soup – Glasgow

Next night, same venue, different band! I was too late to see the Dollyrots, and only caught the end of Forever The Sickest Kids‘ set, which is a shame as they seemed to have got the crowd jumping. “A” followed and had about 25 fans. They’re not bad… but that’s about it.

On a night when Guns ‘n’ Roses were keeping fans waiting 85 minutes longer than they should before coming on stage in Birmingham, Bowling For Soup bounded on a little after 21:30 and launched into a great set.

Silly backdrops, music videos, jokes, banter with the crowd, improvisation… never a dull moment. Hell, they even took a photo-op break mid-song at one point. Standing and posing at each end and the centre of the stage before continuing where they left off.

Mexican waves were done. A death/thrash metal band called Haggis Farts were formed on stage, a song written, and the band broken up… all within five crazy minutes. The crowd were encourage to chant that the bassist, Eric, liked penis… and then chastised and told to chant that they were sorry. Which they did.

Bowling For Soup are all about having fun and not taking life too seriously. I don’t think I’ve seen a crowd grin throughout a show the way the mob did tonight. OK, except for the last time I saw Lawnmower Deth – and that’s a hell of a long time ago.

The other point of note is that the sound was a hell of a lot better than for Alter Bridge. I could make out Jaret’s vocals far more clearly than Myles’ the night before. Still, it could have been better. Maybe it’s the sound system there.

BFS were great fun and picked a nice selection of tracks for the set, including a novel cover of the utterly awful “That’s Not My Name”. I would definitely recommend them to anyone with a sense of humour and can’t wait for them to come round again.

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Mr Nice / The Social Network

Just for a change, I headed into the Glasgow city centre Cineworld as I had most of Sunday to kill before Bowling For Soup came on stage.

By some bizarre coincidence, both films I saw today were “true stories” based on biographies.

Mr. Nice

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Smart Welsh boy goes to Oxford, figures out that dealing drugs is far more profitable than teaching and ends up living the life of crime.

I’ve seen the book Mr. Nice kicking around so much recently, mainly in hostels. It seems that pretty much every 20-something thinks Howards Marks was the coolest guy ever because he sold shitloads of dope and stood up for the whole “it’s a silly law so it doesn’t count” school of thought.

Either way, the story is well known. I even vaguely remember bits of it from when I was a kid and the story appearing on the news – but I won’t go into detail for those of you who are trying to avoid any spoilers!

It’s a good story, too, although given it’s based on Marks’ own viewpoint it’s obvious that there may be a little bit of embellishment somewhere along the lines. Rhys Ifans is perfectly cast and bears more than just a passing resemblance to Marks himself.

From his early beginnings as the school nerd right up to the current day, Marks is played by Ifans. It seems a bit unusual putting him into a school uniform, but it works given that those early years are just brushed over in about ten minutes.

Marks ran the rocky road from college boy to kingpin, dealt with the IRA, arms suppliers, and MI6. Regardless of your moral views on what he did, he led one hell of an interesting life. Shoehorned into 120 minutes, it never gets a chance to get boring.

The Social Network

“The internet’s not written in pencil, Mark. It’s written in ink.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Harvard Freshman comes up with an idea for a website (or steals it) called “The Facebook“. Legal action ensues.

What happens when you mix the verbal genius of The West Wing with the world of computer geekery? The answer is contained in this two-hour internet-driven legal office drama.

In short – Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) is a freshman at Harvard, one of the US “Ivy League” universities. That is, all the “best” students go there. Zuckerberg is, shall we say, a little socially awkward. He has a couple of friends, an immense intellect and really can’t handle other people at all. The view we get in the film is that he finds them of little consequence, perhaps not worthy of his time. Eisenberg plays this part perfectly.

After crashing the school’s network as part of a revenge plot against a recent girlfriend who just dumped him, he is invited to help program a website by two brothers and their business partner. He agrees, but instead spends his time on “The Facebook”. It may have escaped your attention, but the resulting website is slightly popular and was recently valued at around $25 billion.

Needless to say, as soon as money of those amounts is bandied around, people get lawyers involved.

The film is roughly split into three parts, all of which play over each other as the viewpoint jumps around. There are two legal cases plus the back story upon which they are both based. This can make it a little hard to follow in places, but not too much so.

Even if you don’t have an interest in the internet and computers, if you remotely enjoyed The West Wing for its dialogue – and let’s face it, that was a thing of utter beauty – you’ll love this film. Aaron Sorkin‘s work on the script shines as brightly as it did for 154 episodes of the TV show and there’s barely a minute or two without some gem or other being uttered.

The Social Network is a clever, witty, fast-paced legal drama which is hugely enjoyable. If David Fincher ever needed to redeem himself for Alien3, this wipes the slate clean. You know, just in case Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac don’t prove that the studio execs who kicked him off the third Alien film didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

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Lost your Windows/Office install key?

Image representing Windows as depicted in Crun...
Can't reinstall?

I’ve located a very useful piece of freeware. When re-installing Windows on a machine, the only things you need are a working CD/DVD (or USB version) and the installation key. The key is supposed to be stuck onto the machine which is fine is a) it is and b) it’s not been rubbed off by wear and tear.

Such is the case with both my laptop and my netbook.

Thankfully, a company called Mayhem Development have a handy utility available for a free download that, in seconds, presents you with your Windows install key. It states that it works on XP, but I gather it’s also useful if you’re stuck with the bulbous penile pustule of operating systems that is Vista. It may even work with Windows 7.

In addition, it will also recover your Office install key for versions up to and including (to a Beta level) 2010.

The package can be downloaded from Mayhem’s website. It’s tiny, portable (i.e. it doesn’t install – you just run it) and as mentioned, completely free.

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