Amazon Prime (UK)

Amazon PrimeOn the face of it, Amazon Prime is a great purchase – providing free, next- or same- day delivery on some Amazon store items for £8.99 a month (actually £6.53 a month if you opt for the £79 annual membership). Throw in video, music, books and limitless photo storage – to name but a few benefits – and it becomes a no-brainer if you are a regular shopper. However, you do need to do a little homework to check it offers enough if you are subscribing to improve your viewing choices.

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Logan (2017)

Director James Mangold brings another Wolverine offshoot of Bryan Singer’s X-Men franchise. Hugh Jackman reprises his signature role in a Marvel picture that is very different in tone and story from any before. Set 10 years hence with the world’s dwindling population of mutants in a parlous state – ageing Professor X now under the clawed care of Logan. Mutton-chops have given way to a full-on Brian-Blessed-beard for Logan, whilst Xavier has his grey hair growing back and senility settling in.

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Allied (2016)

Allied is a Robert Zemeckis film starring Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard as resistance operatives who meet undercover in French Morocco in the middle of the Second World War. Oh, and they fall in love. Written by Steven Knight (other writing credits include Eastern Promises and Peaky Blinders), the story is derived more from espionage folklore than real life. Supported by the increasingly popular Jared Harris (recent memorable turns in The Crown and Mad Men) and Simon McBurney, reprising his perennial role as the creepy bureaucrat (check out his Magisterium-minion in The Golden Compass).

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My Scientology Movie (2016)

Louis Theroux (Photo credit: Wikipedia) - My Scientology Movie (2016)

Louis Theroux (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently had dinner with a couple who are amongst my oldest friends and, amidst a delightful meal in good company, was shocked to be confronted with the opinion (actually phrased as a question) that Scientology might “offer something positive”. Having followed this cult for many years, I was disturbed.

A week later,  iTunes is flogging the latest Louis Theroux documentary in which the man-with-an-eye for the most bizarre in human behaviour takes a look at the ‘Church’ of Scientology. Being a huge fan of their comedy (!), I coughed up the tenner and downloaded what Theroux regards as “the Holy Grail of Stories”, and iTunes touts as being “as outlandish as it is revealing”.

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The Inbetweeners 2 (2014)

The Inbetweeners Movie

Expecting a klunge-tastic follow-on to the 2011 triumph, but feeling our age, we filed into a cinema populated exclusively by the Inbetweeners 2 target audience of a bunch of pubescent boys to grab a viewing. The lads hook-up to track down Jay (James Buckley) who is down-under (in so many ways) and livin’ it large – the usual Jay bullshit of course. King-dweeb Will (Simon Bird), granny-frigging Neil (Blake Harrison) and numpty Simon (Joe Thomas) – all looking about 5 minutes over 17 – are so fed up with their post-6th form continuation of being the founding members of the not-in-crowd that they head off to track down DJ Big Knob (er, Jay) in Sydney. Cue the usual tasteless adolescent humour that we have come to love from the Channel 4 spin-off.

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Google and the European Court of the Absurd

English: The three biggest web search engines

English: The three biggest web search engines (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The recent ruling by the European Court which requires Google to remove links to (technically, to de-index) content related to privacy claims is more than baffling, it is bloody stupid. The ruling requires the search megalith to unpick paths to material which is out of date and refers to individuals who have sought legal redress.

The Court of Just Bloody Stupid

This is not a defence of Google. The monopoly search provider has enormous market power, and a close eye should be kept on how it wields it. However, the tax-averse internet giant is an indexer of the web, not a builder of its content (in this case, at least). The ECJ ruling typifies the ignorance of technology that pervades politics and lawmaking.

 

The Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) upheld the complaint of a Spanish man who objected to the fact that Google searches on his name threw up links to a 1998 newspaper article about the repossession of his home.

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PCPro Pop Ads Madness kills iPad viewing

iPad snapshot of PCPro The inclusion of a overlay pop ad banner when viewed on the iPad is not going to do much for readership of the PCPro website. Seems desperate give that their screen real estate already includes in-line advertising, and strangely does not appear when browsing the same pages from the desktop. The iPad banner wiggles and moves as the viewer tries to scan the article. Any resizing and it disappears – phew – but then jiggles into view a few seconds later. Nauseating, distracting and counter-productive. This is not the same as the recent revamp of news emails from TechRepublic – which have had, I suspect, a similar impact on click-thru’s by highlighting the journos more than their articles – but is another example of poorly thought out content presentation.

Take a leaf out of Wired UKs site – a well laid-out summary of key articles which draw the eye nicely, and avoid clutter without devaluing on-page adverts. Sites like PCPro and TechRepublic should lead the way in presentation – otherwise good review and news sites that could start losing readership when they flaunt the basics in web design.

Need to sort this, chaps, else readership will suffer.

American Hustle (2013)

http://blog.solopress.com/posters-printing/what-movie-posters-should-say-oscars-2014/

American Hustle is receiving a fair bit of positive publicity and punditry. David O. Russell co-writes and directs a top-notch cast in this 70’s flashback piece which feels a bit like The Sting meets Saturday Night Fever. The opening scene has a wonderfully made-up Christian Bale, playing serial hustler Irving Rosenfeld, getting dressed and attending carefully to his comb-over. The chubby Irving has a gravitas that not only cons his marks but draws the attraction of Sydney Prosser – aka Lady Edith Greensley (a decidedly saucy Amy Adams). Together they become the Bonnie-and-Clyde of the hustling world, depriving desperate loan-seekers of their limited cash. Their success quickly draws the attention of the FBI in the guise of complete muppet, Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper) who blackmails them into helping him catch bigger baddies. Phew. So we are off in what bodes to be quite a giggle – very 70s and very over the top in terms of hair, make-up and clothes – bringing in Rosenfeld’s missus (Jennifer Lawrence, doing a ridiculously over-hyped turn of Wings’ Live and Let Die).

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Bad Day Song Ringtone

Doing the rounds on social media from its publication on Vine is this cool little ditty known as the Bad Day Song.

You can grab the song as a short music file : Bad Day Song

and get the Bad Day Song Ringtone here

(link is now fixed – sorry)

V for Vendetta (2005)

Nov, 5th. III

Nov, 5th. III (Photo credit: Let me live)

V for Vendetta is a 2005 film from James McTeigue, adapted by the Wachowski brothers from the 80’s graphic novel and comic series penned by Alan Moore and drawn by David Lloyd. Starring Hugo Weaving, Natalie Portman and Stephen Rea, the cast is chock full of a bevy of Brit bad-guy all-stars. The story is set in an unhappy, totalitarian Britain of the near future. V (Weaving) enters as a masked super-survivor of the regime’s biological weapons experimentation on political prisoners, intent on upsetting the established order with bombs and counter-propaganda. In saving Evey Hammond (Portman) from rape by the Security Services, V adopts her as his immediate audience. He teaches her to face her own fears as he challenges the public complacency to the mean-spirited nutters that rule them. Seen always masked, Weaving’s delivery of the titular V is through the wonderful dialogue, delivered in a gentlemanly, tragi-calm voice which stands out against the hum of perennial yes-men amongst the supporting characters. Compared to Weaving’s devilish diction, Portman struggles with her accent but does portray well Evey’s conversion from a delicate, conformist rose into a tougher, fearless muse to V’s revenge.

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Rush (2013)

Apart from being a reflection of true life, Ron Howard’s Rush is a bloody good story – weaving a wondrous mixture of motor racing at its peak of excitement and danger with a biopic of a naughty Brit and a haughty Austrian at the top of their game in the mid 70’s.

Niki Lauda practicing at the Nürburgring durin...

Niki Lauda practicing at the Nürburgring during the 1976 German Grand Prix. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The film focuses on the personalities and pains of James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Bruhl) from when they met in Formula 3 to their classic year-long duel for the 1976 FIA Formula One World Championship. Hemsworth’s Hunt reflects the English playboy more at home with booze and a tasty, compliant blonde than battling on the tarmac. Lauda is spookily portrayed by a brilliant Bruhl as the steely-eyed technician and perfectionist (who later mentored the meticulous Senna to championship glory). Whilst sympathetic to both, neither character is given primacy and their respective flaws are amplified in what is a well-crafted character piece with on-track action blended in as the common narrative. The audience roots for neither but with Bruhl’s mimicry of the Austrian likely to resonate more strongly with race fans. He really is Lauda.

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The Worlds End (2013)

Writer/Director Edgar Wright once again grabs Simon Pegg and Nick Frost to create a third film in a collection colloquially known as the Cornetto Trio – The World’s End completes a line-up including Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Pegg plays Gary King, a 40-something trapped in a nostalgia trip focussed on his last daythe-worlds-end-full-length-movie-online of school and a failed 12-pub crawl which was due to end in the titular drinking hole some 20 years ago. Pegg is great as the aging rocker still driving the same car, in the same clothes and smoking the same fags whilst the former mates he dragoons into re-playing the pub crawl are suitably middle-aged until alcohol loosens them up. As well as partner-in-comedy Nick Frost, Pegg and Wright rope in the great Eddie Marsan, Paddy Considine, Rosamund Pike and Martin Freeman, who are all fab and have characters which kick off well against the intentionally irritating King. The group including King’s former teenage shag (Pike) are soon faced with what now seems to be the subtext in each one of this trio of movies – a bunch of Bodysnatcher-like nasties (zombies in Shaun, cults in Hot Fuzz, and now some bunch of PC-pushing alien baristas in World’s End). Cue horror, comedy and entertaining japes. then ?

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Man of Steel (2013)

Superman: The Man of Steel

Sky TV recently ran the original Superman series of films, produced by Alexander Salkind back in the early 80s. Great fun and, being a fan, I had to check out Man of Steel which reprised the Zod character that Terence Stamp so hilariously camped-up back in the day. Zak Snyder took Richard Lester’s original (1980), re-working it to deliver a very different piece of entertainment; darker, over-explanatory, labouring the Kryptonian history lesson and bringing out Russell Crowe in Maximus-mode as Super Daddy. Nice turn from Kevin Costner as Clark Kent’s ‘good ole boy’ pater on Earth, with Diane Lane as Ma. Once cleaned up from grumpily wandering the globe to find himself,  Henry Cavill is a fab caped and coiffed hero, blissfully lacking the forehead curl so beloved of Christopher Reeve.

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The Guard (2011)

Brendan Gleeson

Brendan Gleeson (Photo credit: Capital M)

Having heard a groundswell of positive comment regarding The Guard, I missed it at the pictures. It was only Air New Zealand’s in-flight fare which introduced me to Brendon Gleeson’s charming Garda chappie. Irish funding, together with a bunch of UK lottery dosh attracted the superb Don Cheadle, fulfilling the role of patient Yank-in-the-face-of-old-world-bollox. (Worth seeing in Hotel Rwanda – the stuff of Oscars, despite the actual choices of the AMPAS – and I still love his turn as Basher, the cheeky mockney fixer in the Oceans Eleven series). Worthy mention to Mark Strong who spins his usual Brit-nasty-villain role with homicidal aplomb. Great script too. Strong:”When I applied for the role of international drugs dealer, there was no mention of heavy lifting so you are on your own with those bodies ….“. Bloody Fab.

Apple Online Service Drops … Sales Follow

Reports today that Apple’s online sales have dropped for only the second time ever is not a major shock to those of us that use their online services. The performance Apple online through iTunes has been noticeably poorer of late. Updates almost always fail – it can take up to 5 attempts to contact the “iTunes Server” and get an app updated. Similarly, a “Genius” update can take 20 or 30 minutes on a library normally updated in less than 1 minute. Having dismissed this as a local bandwidth issue, it now seems it is a general malaise, and arguably the source of the drop in sales given iTunes underpins the whole Apple ecosystem. Tricky to understand what has happened – whether an software update to the online iTunes infrastructure has gone wrong, or possibly the now endemic malicious activity, or just plain and simple capacity issues mis-managed at Apple datacentres ? Comment from the Cupertino crew would be very welcome. “This wouldn’t have happened in Jobs’ day, I can tell you !”

SAN ANSELMO, CA - NOVEMBER 16: The Beatles cat...

SAN ANSELMO, CA - NOVEMBER 16: The Beatles catalog is displayed on Apple's iTunes on November 16, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. Apple has struck a deal with the record label EMI and the Beatles' company Apple Corps to sell digital downloads of the legendary rock band's music on iTunes. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

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Prometheus (2012)

Alien (film)

Alien (film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back in 1979, a mate got in to see Ridley Scott’s Alien at the Slough Odeon. Before taking his seat, he snuck down the back stairs, pushed open the exit door and let a group of us creep in. The film was X rated and we were 5 years shy of 18. The cinema was heaving – nothing special in those days – and we sat down by the smoking area to relax and enjoy the movie. Of course, relaxation was not the feeling Scott gifted his audience. Even the opening scenes aboard the Nostromo, just before the crew were awakened by Mother to pop down to some hellhole and get John Hurt to try on a new rubber face for size, were incredibly spooky. So well done was the air of suspense and menace that there was limited need for guts and gore to scare the bejeesus out of my adolescent arse. Yet, the chest explosion scene is possibly one of the most referenced examples of horror genius; completely overlooking the wonderfully grimy, dark and nasty space imagery the young Brit film director conjured up in a time when film makers could barely spell CGI. Throw in a talented but eclectic ensemble cast, a big bag of horse-guts and “In Space No One Can Hear You Scream”.

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Deja View As Governments Target Illegal Streamers

Cartoon about copyright and the internet made ...

Image via Wikipedia

Held up by current political hissy fits over the US budget deficit, debate over the Commercial Felony Streaming Act (Bill Number S.978) has stalled. As soon as the fiscal log-jam is cleared, it is likely this bill will re-appear. According to a report in The Economist, its enactment would mean that anyone who streams copyright material over the internet without permission of the owners and for their own enrichment (draft says more than $2,500 would be the benchmark) would be committing a felony. This carries penalties of up to 5 years in prison. Seems a tad harsh but highly reminiscent of the absurd Digital Economy Act 2010 in the UK – not so much in its provisions but in its blunderbuss approach to appeasing the media companies.

These pieces of ill-advised legislation have been rushed in – certainly in the case of the UK Act which was championed by Peter Mandelson as Business Secretary. The departing Labour government of Gordon Brown whistled in the Act, despite significant opposition and learned comment from the industry, possibly as some kind of sop or political payback to the entertainment industry. The panic and shortsightedness from the industry are all too apparent. There are clear lessons to be learned from the cassette tape levy fiasco of the 1980’s and, more so, from the resistance to the digitising of music content. Experience showed that, not only was their resistance somewhat wasted, but that a burgeoning and revitalised music industry resulted. The only downside was the dominance of a few new players – such as Apple. With its ground-breaking iTunes service, Apple deserved to blitz the sleepy musos with its fun, simple and (relatively) inexpensive proposition. People were pissed off with being over-charged for records and CDs in the 80s and 90s – that is what prompted the rise of illegal download services such as Napster, as well as peer-to-peer file-sharing and informal swapping of media files online.  iTunes, and to some extent DRM technologies which attempted to prevent copying, made it OK to distribute music online. DRM has since been shown to be pointless. However, because the music publishers failed to get on board, their only choice was to license their material to other companies to sell rather than take the opportunity to embrace a wonderfully cheap new distribution model that would increase their margins.

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Cut Both Ways – Withnail & Star Wars

Withnail and I

Image via Wikipedia

 

Hilarious stuff – the enterprising Raff Jones has cut “Withnail and I” dialogue/soundtrack into “Star Wars”. It’s a must-see and turning into a series on YouTube …..

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More Hacking Humbug

Daily Mail

Image via Wikipedia

Hats off to the Daily Mail as it extends its right to be Britain’s Nastiest Newspaper by trying to steer media attention away from the News International Phone Hacking Scandal. Obviously not done out of any sense of cameraderie with its fellow journalists at the deceased News Of The World, as the owners of the Mail are reported to be planning their own Sunday print to cash in on the gap left by the naughty NotW. It also seems likely that the Daily Mail is somewhat deeper in the Phone Hacking mire than the NI titles. Fascinating stuff from the Tabloid Watch blog which makes a strong case for the police investigation to throw its, so far limited, net beyond the walls of Wapping. Of course, it’ll never happen. Would the Daily Wail’s foul-mouthed and sanctimonious editor, Paul Dacre,  have sanctioned any such activities ? One cannot imagine such hypocrisy amongst the Fourth Estate !

Operation Motorman identified 58 Daily Mail journalists completing 952 transactions with Whittamore (compared to the News of the World’s 228 transactions).

Meanwhile, devastated to hear that Rebekah Brooks has been arrested. Only 8 years after admitting to a House of Commons Committee that the newspaper at which she was editor (NotW) regularly bribed police officers. What a fascinating way to enforce the law we enjoy in the UK – a person is investigated based on the inverse of their ability to influence public opinion – even when they confess publicly.

News of the Screwed

The Last Ever Edition of the News of the World

The front page of the last ever edition of the News of the World is all over the internet, accompanied by quotes from staff bleating about the injustice of the paper’s closure by Murdoch management on the back foot. I did feel a touch of regret that a supposedly crusading paper fell victim to the actions of a dodgy few.

Not for long. Remembering the culture at News International which encouraged the cynical and illegal access to voicemails of murdered teenagers whilst their poor parents knew nothing of the fate of their children makes me ashamed of the British press as an institution (and not for the first time).

However cynical an attempt this is to preserve the other NI titles, good riddance. I hope people will continue to boycott the predicted “Sunday Sun” when it materialises.