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The nippers went home to mum today after four days with me and I miss them, but I’ll catch them again next week. A little glad of the quiet time to get stuff done (mainly trying to empty boxes and figure out where the hell to put things). They were so good while they were here – getting on a lot better than I ever remember. Austin’s grown up a lot this year, he’s so helpful – just like his older sister.

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I don’t like going to the cinema. Which may come as a surprise to many who know me, given that I really enjoy films. Sadly the experience has been gradually ruined over the years, the enjoyment whittled away by cinemas increasing prices, making seats less comfortable, locating cinemas miles away (I used to walk to the one where I grew up) and forcing us to pick our seats before walking in so we had no idea who we’d end up sat next to and couldn’t move if someone we didn’t like sat next to us. And don’t get me started on the huge push on 3D.

The last film I saw at the cinema was the vastly overrated Black Panther (Of all the superhero films, that was the one which swept the Oscars? Really) and I spent half the film trying not to be sick as the man I ended up sat next to stank. I mean, really bad. A stomach-churning odour as if he’d not washed in many months, and had been sleeping in his clothes for the entire time. If it wasn’t for the stupid “pick your seat before entry” policy, I’d not have sat next to him. Or I’d have moved.

Anyway, flash forward about a year to the holidays and the desire to spend some time with The Boy. Avengers End Game‘s arse-numbing 3+ hours is about to land in cinemas and I knew that Captain Marvel was the last film in sequence which needed to be seen before it. I didn’t fancy trying to dodge spoilers in two major films for months before DVD/streaming release so bit the bullet and headed in for an 11am performance. Thankfully the place was pretty much deserted so it was no problem getting seats nowhere near anyone else.

And I’m glad we did. What a great film. Initially a bit confusing with all the flashbacks (two segments full of them), it gradually came together and answered so many questions about the MCU / Avengers some of which we’d not even asked. The “stepped back in time” appearances from some characters we were already familiar with was good, the action sequences not overblown, there were plenty of humorous quotes and I even loved the opening Marvel montage made up of images of Stan Lee – a great tribute. It’ll be quite sad to see his final cameo in that upcoming Avengers film (though apparently he may somehow be in the next Spiderman one – maybe CGI?).

So, anyway. That’s why Captain Marvel is today’s picture. I would have taken a photo in the cinema but apparently they have an issue with that.

Michael from “Microsoft Technical Support” and the “computer infection”

Before I begin, I would like to emphasise – if someone (whatever their accent) rings you out of the blue from “Microsoft Tech Services” or similar, telling you that your email address is infected and your computer has caught a bug which is… you know, a load of techno-cobblers, then don’t follow their instructions. Don’t give them any personal information. Feel free to swear down the phone at them and tell them which limbs you’ll break if you ever see them in the street. Because they’re trying to defraud you.

The usual procedure is they get you to download some real spyware, or some software which gives them control over your machine (such as Teamviewer, an otherwise useful program) and then gather all your personal information to pass to them, or something which genuinely does lock up your system so they can bill you for other software to remove it (which it may or may not do – it could be more spyware… and they’ll have your payment details as well). More information over on ActionFraud where you can also report these criminals. Head to YouTube and search for “Indian scammer” for loads of recordings.

My only concern is how they have my home phone number (which I never use) and my email address tied together. There must be a website somewhere with this info, but hey – I can live with that as I know how to deal with these idiots. Which, if you have some spare time, is like this… (apologies I didn’t get a recording – I would have if they’d rung my mobile)

*bring bring* [international number incoming]

M: Hello, this is Michael [with an Indian accent]. I am calling from Microsoft. Your computer has been hacked by an infection and I am going to help you remove it.

Me: Oh. Oh wow. That sounds scary. How did that happen? What can I do? Thank you for calling!

M: Are you at your computer.

Me: Yes, I am. It’s already on.

M: Look at your keyboard. Do you see the CTRL key?

Me: I don’t think I have one of those. I have a CMD. And caps lock. Did you mean caps lock?

M: In the bottom left, you should have a C-T-R-L key.

Me: No, I don’t have one of those. I have shift. Will that do?

M: OK, no problem. Look at your screen. Can you see your icons?

Me: Yes, I can see them. They’re really pretty. I arranged them to look like a spiral.

M: What web browser do you use?

Me: I use Yahoo. To give them some business.

M: OK, so open your Safari, or Google Chrome or Yahoo for me.

Me: Oh. Wait. I can’t see the icon for that. I think it’s vanished. Could this be the virus?

M: It’s not a virus, it’s an infection. And yes it could be. It will be infecting your computer and damaging your system files.

Me: Oh, no. I can’t see my Compuserve icon anywhere to dial the modem. I’m not sure how I will be able to access AOL now.

M: On your screen in the top right, can you see a magnifying glass?

Me: No, there’s nothing there. Apart from the screen. Just background. It’s a picture of my children. Wait! One of them is holding a magnifying glass in the picture! Is that the one you mean? Wait, how can you see that?

M: No, no. A small icon of a magnifying glass in the top right hand corner…

Me: Oh, wait! Silly me. I’m logged in as my son. That’s why some of the icons are missing. He will have been up all night downloading pornography again. Could that be the problem, where the virus came from? He watches a lot of pornography.

M: How old is your son?

Me: Eight

M: Eighteen?

Me: No. Eight.

M: He’s eight and you allow him to watch pornography?

Me: It keeps him quiet while my wife and I try to work around the house. Oh, that might explain where the CTRL key went. I think it got really sticky so we pulled it off. Hang on, I’ll log out and go to my account. It’s really slow so bear with me.

M: Yes, it will be the infection which is making it slow.

Me: I am so glad you called! Thank you! Yes, … here we go… wow, it’s slow… aaaand… no, that’s not it yet. Wait… [I ran this out for 2-3 minutes] OK, and password. Wait, you can’t see my password, can you? I mean you could see my magnifying glass.

M: No, we can’t see your password.

Me: Good, good, because we’re very strict on passwords in this house! Don’t tell them to anyone. OK, P… A… where’s the S? There. S… S… W… O… R… D. Oh. It’s not working. I’ll try again. P…a…s…s…w…o…r…d… Oh. Could this be the virus. Wait! I had caps on! Sorry! P… A… Michael? Michael? Are you still there? Michael? Damn, he gave up easily.

Review: Doctor Who And The Daleks

Doctor Who And The Daleks
Doctor Who And The Daleks by David Whitaker
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The second Doctor Who book I’ve ever read – the first was Genesis of the Daleks when I was about 10 years old. It’s based on TV episodes from 1963 and originally published in 1964, though there was a film version starring Peter Cushing and Roy Castle which I vaguely remember as well!

It’s not a bad book, though it lacks the flippant comments and off-the-cuff humour that The Doctor has taken on over the years. It’s quite a simple story and for someone who really jumped onto Doctor Who at a late age, raises more questions than it answers. I won’t mention them here for fear of spoilers.

Still, a nice small book that I could blast through quickly and which will find itself being donated to the school library at the start of term.

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Drive / Red State

By إبن البيطار (Own work) [GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsTwo grisly action-ish films this weekend, both quite different from each other.


“There are no good sharks?”

Plot-in-a-nutshell: quiet guy gets involved in a crime to help out a friend and it all goes pear shaped

See it if you like: shocking, grisly violence with a dash of pathos

If you’ve seen Shoot ‘Em Up, this isn’t a million miles away as far as the basic plot goes. However, the out and out bullet-fest of Clive Owen‘s effort is instead drawn out and played in a much quieter – though no less lethal style – by Ryan Gosling.

The plot is fairly simple. Gosling plays a part-time stunt driver, part-time mechanic (and part-time getaway driver) who says very little. He gets to know his pretty next door neighbour (Carey Mulligan) and offers to help her husband out when he’s released from prison with a ton of “we stopped you getting knifed inside” debt. Unfortunately, the job goes belly-up and our lead is left trying to figure out what went wrong and why.

Cue bad guys hunting him down, and a sudden surge of protectiveness welling from our quiet yet violent hero.

The pace of the film may be too slow for some – certainly this was Gillian’s main complaint and I can see what she means. However, I personally thought it was well done. There are periods where little happens, but it’s a reflection of the character himself. He’s not impetuous. He’s careful, patient and plans well. Even the opening sequence is a mixture of short adrenaline bursts and stomach-clenching tension during long moments where nothing happens. It’s a bit of a gamble by director Nicolas Winding Refn, but it pays off.

As the film goes on, Gosling’s character reveals more of the bastard he really is – both verbally and in his actions. From virtually mute, his spoken scenes get longer but almost always when he’s threatening someone. And when those threats are followed through… yow.

The splatter scenes aren’t for the faint of heart. One scene was – according to the director – cut quite drastically as it was too much for the MPAA. What remains is predominantly off-camera, but still grisly. The guy sat next to me was a giggle. Every time something violent occurred 0n-screen, he sat with his hand clamped over his mouth and his eyes bugging out! I hate to think what he’d be like in a screening of a Final Destination movie.

A bit slow going, as I said, but worth the effort. Nothing hugely original, but very well acted and filmed.

Red State

“Simple just **** itself”

Plot-in-a-nutshell – a mad-as-a-box-of-badgers religious sect kidnaps three teenagers. Coincidentally, the ATF turn up at their doorstep to check on a few alleged firearms irregularities. Comedy does not ensue.

See it if you like – seeing an established director take a fresh direction

Funnily enough, I’m enjoying this film more on reflection than I did at the time. Part of this is down to the fact that I’ve just found out that the special effects budget was only $5000 and the entire thing was shot in 25 days, in order and with a cast partly including family members of the crew to keep the costs down.

If you’re expecting a gross-out comedy along the lines of Chasing Amy or a film full of Clerks-esque monologues then you’ll be disappointed. The longest monologue in the film goes to Michael Parks who plays Abin Cooper, insane leader of a small cult which may or may not be based on the real-life Westboro Baptist Church ( sadder, more pathetic bunch of ****-rags you’ll be hard pressed to find in the western world). Sadly, this monologue is just a load of Christian claptrap and drags on far too long. Yes, we gathered he’s a nut-job. Yes, we know he’s using the Bible to justify his hatred of gays. We don’t need ten minutes of bonkers preacher man to prove it.

Other than that one segment, the film moves along at quite a pace. However, at times it doesn’t quite seem to know what it wants to be. Or what is it. Or where it was when they finished filming the day before. A case in point is just after the introduction of John Goodman‘s ATF agent. The screen goes black with a caption: “4:27am”. Yes, fine, but why tell us the time at that point in the film at at absolutely no other? Unless it’s one of the ten “Easter eggs” that director Kevin Smith says are hidden in the film.

Given the amateur status of so many of the cast, their performances are pretty damn good and the story is an interesting one – disjointed though it may be. There are some laughs, mainly of the darker variety, and don’t get too attached to any of the characters…

The ending is also rather sudden and does smack of “we’re running out of cash… how can we wrap this up?” syndrome.

At the time, we both came out of the cinema thinking “Well… that was OK”. Looking back, though, there are some good moments and it’s worth considering.

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