The American (and a second dose of trains)

Courtesy of being a numpty and checking the times for Cineworld Glasgow instead of Edinburgh, I made my way to the cinema for 10:30 to find that the showing of Machete I wanted to see didn’t exist.

Arse.

I’d seen everything else due to start before half twelve (except Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest and I’ve not seen, or want to see, the one before it) so I opted to watch Unstoppable again. I missed the first 10 minutes when I caught it last week, so at least some of it would be new. It was still enjoyable the second time around, though not as good as the first screening.

Next up:

The American

“You cannot deny the existence of hell. You live in it. It is a place without love.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Mysterious American hitman/spy/something ends up in a peaceful Italian town with some dodgy Swedish people on his tail.

Based on Martin Booth‘s novel A Very Private Gentleman, the film finds “Jack” (George Clooney) fleeing to Italy to escape Swedish assassins, while preparing one final job. It’s never 100% clear what he does, though this final work seems to involve supplying a gun to another assassin rather than doing the deed himself.

It’s definitely a rather arty film, not the action spectacle you might expect. There are many scenes that just seem to be crammed together and often you’re left thinking “what’s going on? Why did he just do that?” – but at least it’s a film that makes you think rather than spoon-feeding the audience.

What I can say about the movie is that it is absolutely beautifully shot (director Anton Corbijn should take a bow), most of it in a small Italian town called Castel del Monte. If the Italian government were looking for a 105 minute tourism advert showing how gorgeous and historic parts of their country are, then they’d not go far wrong using this.

The rest of the cast are as good as can be expected, though I have to simply say: Violante Placido… *drool*. If I was allowed a “five famous people” list she’d be on it. Wow.

As I said, don’t expect huge explosions, spectacular car crashes and Bay-esque set pieces. This is a film about Clooney’s character rather than the events around him. The thing is, he’s such a private gentleman that it doesn’t make for a very interesting tale. Everything coasts along well enough, and there are little moments as the film builds to a decent near-ending… and a fairly weak final scene.

There are better films out at the moment, but if you want to see Italy at its most jaw-dropping then there’s nothing else to rival this one.

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All That Remains / Soilwork – Glasgow Garage

Soilwork
Soilwork

Another quickie review. I think there were actually five bands on the bill, though my ticket “only” lists four. I missed Bleed From Within, but caught the last 3-4 songs by Caliban. They were OK, nothing special, but the last song was ace. Shame I have no idea what it was!

Soilwork

Possibly the only Swedish band I’ve ever seen live (possibly not, as well) and the second time I’ve caught them. Last time was 4-5 years ago at my first Graspop festival in Belgium when they were touring in support of their Stabbing The Drama album.

They put in a solid performance and had the crowd bouncing. The best tracks of the night – and the most welcomed – did seem to be from the aforementioned album, though. This was their breakthrough release and is certainly the one I know the best.

Good set, nice guys and it certainly had me wanting to go home and re-listen to their stuff.

All That Remains
All That Remains

All That Remains

“Apparently there’s some problems with snow. We’re from Massachusetts. That’s a fucking sprinkle out there!”

And thus began a very impressive headlining set indeed. Due to technical problems (I think) and the number of bands playing, All That Remains didn’t get a particularly long show which is a shame. I’ve not seen them before, but what I did see impressed me.

Philip Labonte is a great frontman. All posing, great rapport with the crowd and a fantastic vocal range. Standout, though was Oli Herbert. This is a man who was obviously constrained by the small stage size. It was like watching a wildcat in playpen, or a small child bouncing around during a world Ritalin shortage. This is a man who would be all over the place on a large festival stage.

They played a varied set, and I recognised quite a few tracks as I’ve had a couple of the albums in the car over the last few weeks. What I really like about ATR is that they’re not ashamed to mix three styles of music in a single song, let alone across one album.

None of the bands were ones I’m a massive fan of, but they are ones I listen to. Listening to them live was a great experience, though. Definitely worth the trip into Glasgow and the hairy drive home.

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PayPal – the easiest way to be ripped off online

Logo of PayPal.
Bunch of bastards

Recently, I had some issues with my PayPal account. Briefly, I had money move out of my account to pay for something I didn’t buy, and two people sent me a total of ten payments for approximately $30 each.

I contacted the “buyers” who started asking for refunds, which I duly actioned as it wasn’t my money. They hadn’t tried to pay me and didn’t know why they’d “sent” me the cash. I also put a halt on the other payment which was eventually refunded.

At one random point, PayPal decided to take £40+ from my bank account. I eventually found it was because I’d issued to may “payments” (actually the refunds!), they had opted to avoid risk by funding them directly from my bank.

So, even though the money was in my PayPal account and was being refunded to the people it came from, PayPal took money from my external bank account to fund them.

As a result of this, I ended up a few quid out of pocket as the payments had been made and refunded in dollars. Due to conversion rates changing, the money left in my PayPal account didn’t cover the amount taken without my consent from my bank.

To find out why all this had happened, and was happening, I emailed PayPal. They told me to ring them on their lovely 0870 premium rate number. I asked if there was another number to call them on as that was charged as 10p/minute. I was told “no”, that was the only number they had and they couldn’t resolve the issue by email.

I called. I was on for an hour. Things, after 2 weeks, finally became resolved and my PayPal balance contained the amount taken – without my consent – from my bank. A transaction, incidentally, that put me perilously close to going overdrawn.

I demanded the cost of the telephone call back and was told that this wasn’t policy and that their terms and conditions state that I am liable for all ISP and telephone fees generated as a result of using PayPal.

Hang on.

They can’t do their job over email. They insist I call otherwise I would remain out of pocket. They push me to the redline on my bank account. They tell me that ringing is the only way to resolve the issue…

And then they profit from the phone call?

What a fucking rip-off. This isn’t a business, it’s a scheme to fleece people any which way they can.

Oh, and if you want to lodge a complaint in writing then the address is in Luxembourg, despite them having a physical UK presence.

PayPal – fuck you. I’ll find another way of paying for things online. You’re untrustworthy, sneaky, dodgy, conniving, dishonest and very dubious.

And don’t you dare send me another form email starting “On a personal note…”. The second one of those mails I received – from a different employee – made it obvious there’s nothing personal about you. The third just turned it into a joke.

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Happy days

Smiley Face
🙂

I don’t post much personal stuff on here any more for a variety of reasons. The main ones are a) lack of time and b) lack of feeling that I need to.

I always used to find this rather therapeutic, but over the last few weeks in particular I’ve just not had a need for it. Prior to that I’ve been too wrapped up in work which isn’t something I can’t really blog about.

What I can say is that I’m really enjoying the work, tough though it is. The weeks are flying by and teaching offers the one thing I was really missing in my old work: variety. There are no two children the same, classes the same or lessons the same. Even with my S1 and S2 classes where I repeat the same lesson over with 3-4 groups of children, every one is different.

The other thing that’s buoying me along is the new girlfriend. It’s been a while since I’ve actually “dated” someone and it’s early days. However, I’m enjoying it. Things are paced well, we’re getting along wonderfully and there could well be a future here. I certainly hope so.

All the travelling helped me realise what I need in life, and right now I’ve got most of it. Health, family, work I enjoy and the love of an amazing woman. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.

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Unstoppable London Boulevard

Two more films to make up for last week’s drought, courtesy of some kids’ film taking up all the new screens.

Unstoppable

“In training they just give you an F. Out here you get killed.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Runaway train!

“Based on real events” apparently, but who cares. Unstoppable is ninety minutes of being sat on the edge of your seat despite knowing perfectly well how it’s going to end. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine play two train drivers (yes, I know there are technical terms – I don’t care) who get caught up in a potential disaster. A huge train laden with dangerous chemicals is belting along the tracks towards a township, and *dramatic drum roll* only they can stop it.

The film has all the stereotypes. There’s a guy with marital problems. Another pushing retirement. A tough female who’s belittled by the powers that be. A twat of a company director.

Tony Scott‘s done a great job with what’s a very simple story. We don’t spend too much time messing around with character development when all we’re really interested in is the BIG SODDING TRAIN. There’s actually very little destruction in the film (it’s Scott, not Michael Bay after all), so it’s more in the thriller camp than an action film.

If you’ve had a tough week at work, then this is an ideal movie to go and see. Switch your brain into neutral and shovel the popcorn into your gob while Unstoppable washes over you.

London Boulevard

“Fahk awf. Cahnt.”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: Don’t make me angry. You’d not like me when I’m angry. I turn into a gangster.

A hell of a cast, this one, led by Colin Farrell as a released convict who’s expected by his peers to get back “on the game”. However, he really doesn’t want to. The local kingpin, however, has other ideas and it rather insistent.

Farrell manages to almost drop his Irish accent for this one, whereas Keira Knightley hams up her posh one playing a strung-out ex-actress. Who really needs to eat more. And wear a padded bra. Just saying, sorry. Ray Winstone is cast as the big, bad gangland lord which means he gets to swear a lot and be violent. So no typecasting so far.

My choice for best performance of the film goes to David Thewlis, who plays a wonderfully scatty friend to Knightley’s recluse. His character ranges from stoner to thug without ever seeming as if he’s acting unnaturally. Genuinely wonderful to watch.

London Boulevard flips from violence to humour to emotional and touching from scene to scene, often meaning that it seems a little jumpy. However, the story is good enough that it really doesn’t matter.

At risk of giving a spoiler (do stop reading if it worries you, just in case), the film’s similarity to Layer Cake is emphasised by the ending which is just too samey.

I enjoyed it, though. A very good story (even if it’s unoriginal), great performances and some genuine laugh out loud moments.

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