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Archive for August, 2008

It pays to check your mobile phone bill with a fine-toothed comb. My mobile phone provider tried to charge me more than $50 extra this month, claiming a discrepancy between the time I signed up for my new cap plan and the start of their billing period.

My argument was how would anyone signing up for a phone plan know the billing cycle of the provider? Also, surely the days unaccounted for were still covered by my previous plan? Their argument also made little sense because despite claiming I had not started my new plan until July 11 and that the billing cycle started July 8, they had charged me for calls from July 8.

Basically, I signed up for a $49 cap plan with several hundred dollars of included calls and texts, then they tried to give me less than half of what I was entitled to. The extra $50+ was supposedly to cover what I had spent in the four days I was outside the plan.

Pretty cheeky considering I have been a customer for more than 10 years and could easily have churned or stayed off contract.

They told me to go back to the store where I signed up and I said no way was I doing that. I asked them to calculate the $50+ in calls – anyone who has looked at a mobile bill will understand it is night on impossible to work out the true charges by the time they do calls, texts, credits, GST etc.

In the meantime I worked out I should have been entitled to about 90 per cent of my month’s included calls. Lo and behold, they worked that out too and decided the computer must have made a mistake. I will get the $50+ credit on my next bill.

The moral of the story is take the time to read your bill, preferably with a calculator. If it looks unnaturally high it probably is! The downside is you will need at least half an hour or more on the phone to sort it out. That’s preferable to the hour plus I spent on the phone to the bank during a recent series of calls to rectify a credit card billing problem but that is a story for another time!

Now if only I could get rid of the unsolicited spam SMS messages offering free ringtones.

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As promised the review, originally published in The West Australian Newspaper.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars (PG)

Voices of Samuel L Jackson, Christopher Lee, Matt Lanter

Directed by Dave Filoni

2.5 stars

Review: Sue Yeap

 

Star Wars fans are a devoted, patient and occasionally weird lot. I am not ashamed to count myself among them, having seen the original Star Wars trilogy more times that I can count using all my fingers, toes and then some.

That said I found it hard to work up much enthusiasm for this new instalment, an animated feature which sits between Star Wars Episode 2: Attack of the Clones and Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.

There are two inherent problems with The Clone Wars. The first is that by virtue of its setting, it cannot and does not really add anything of real consequence to the existing mythology, storyline or timeline.

Sure we get to see Anakin Skywalker reluctantly training a new young padawan, Ahsoka Tano, but will anything he learns in the process stop him turning into Darth Vader? No.

Second, The Clone Wars has the depth and appearance of a computer game. A really slick and expensive one, granted, but a computer or console game none the less.

Pixar has set the bar for animation so high and audiences have become so eagerly embraced their fantastic films, it is hard for any other studio to compete. I read somewhere that even George Lucas has admitted Pixar is in a different league.

The “human” characters have been inspired by anime yet have the gait of Thunderbirds or their counterparts from the popular Lego Star Wars games. Only in the shoot-em-up space scenes with star destroyers and lots of explosions does the CGI really sing.

The battle between good and evil, the force and the dark side, is something the animated feature has in common with its six live-action predecessors.

Here, the Jedi Knights continue their mission to maintain freedom and restore peace to the galaxy, using their army of clones against the massive droid army under the command of General Grievous.

Count Dooku is again up to no good, hatching a plot to kidnap the son of Jabba the Hutt, with whom the Jedis are planning to sign a treaty to guarantee safe passage to the Outer Rim. Helping Dooku is his evil henchwoman Asajj Ventress, who previously appeared in the animated Clone War micro- series of 2003 to 2005.

It becomes the task of Anakin and Ahsoka to rescue Stinky and return him to Jabba, who believes the Jedi are out to kill his son.

Giving the tadpole-like blob of a baby a name like Stinky is evidence this film is not without humour. Strangely, the funniest lines come from the enemy army droids, usually as they are about to be destroyed.

Unfortunately like many live-action films the potential for a speedy resolution ends with the introducing of a secondary hostage plot twist that adds at least another 15 minutes.

Lucas has said there will be no more Star Wars live action feature films. As such this first animated feature basically serves as an introduction to the upcoming Cartoon Network TV series.

Director Dave Filoni (Avatar: The Last Airbender) is also overseeing the series, which is predicted to eventually have more than 100 episodes or mini-features.

Given their placement in the Star Wars timeline, the film and series steer away from the Skywalker saga and instead out the back story of the legendary Clone Wars and how the republic would eventually become an empire.

Lucas has clearly pitched The Clone Wars at the younger, wired generation, those who perhaps first met Luke Skywalker on PlayStation, not on the big screen.

In doing so he has ensured the longevity and popularity of the franchise but may have disenfranchised those who are not 12-year-old boys; the fans who were back there a long time ago in a galaxy called 1977.

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Bah. I’m a big Star Wars fan from way back but sadly I was not at all impressed with Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Or as I like to call it, Star Wars episode 2a. Or “the one between the Clones and the Sith”.

It’s animated, it’s aimed at 12-year-old boys and gamers, and I don’t fit either category. I don’t understand why the characters had to walk/lope like Thunderbirds.

My four-year-old seemed quite keen to see it and has been pointing at the bus shelter posters from miles away but he wasn’t impressed at all, despite loving the game Lego Star Wars. I wonder if one day there will be a generation of kids who have never seen Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and only know of The Force from computer games?

Anyways, full review to come after it has been published in The West Australian or after I write a different version of it….

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Crikey I had forgotten just how creepy this Liv Tyler and Scott Speedman movie was until I again watched the trailer while looking for an image to use. I am very glad that I saw it during the day, I don’t think I could have slept at night if I had seen it in the dark.

You will never view the “unwind in Melbourne” tourism ads (the ones with the giant red ball of string) the same way after seeing The Strangers. During one of the film’s creepiest scenes (as opposed to ultra-violent), Joanna Newsom’s whimsical/kooky/eerie Sprout and the Bean is playing on the record player…but who put the LP on (!?!)

Anyways here is my review (I haven’t checked to see if anything was edited out yet)  from today’s edition of The West Australian

Read it and shudder.

The Strangers (MA)

Scott Speedman, Liv Tyler, Gemma Ward

Directed by Bryan Bertino

3 stars

Review: Sue Yeap

 

As someone who deliberately goes out of their way to avoid horror movies, I’d say The Strangers had the desired affect on me. My knuckles were white, I had the jitters and was too terrified to sneak out in the dark to go to the toilet.

But let it be known that those less easily scared may not be entirely satisfied with this brutal film, the point of which seems to be to inflict as much torment and terror on the attractive lead as 80 minutes allows.

The Strangers is in many ways a fairly conventional slasher film that employs bump in the night style tactics and creepy music to create a rising sense of panic.

Scott Speedman and Liv Tyler are James Hoyt and Kristen McKay, a young couple in love whose relationship has just hit a hurdle; she has turned down his marriage proposal.

Returning to their isolated holiday home for what should have been a romantic, rose-petal strewn enchanted evening, James makes arrangements to have a friend pick him up.

Things start to go bad around 4am when a young girl (Gemma Ward, who spends most of the movie under a mask) arrives at the door looking for a Tamara. She returns to give Kristen the creeps while James is out buying her cigarettes.

As is mandatory in this genre the leads are always at a disadvantage and don’t do much to help themselves. Come on, who opens the door to strangers in the middle of the night not once, but twice?

James soon realises Kristen is not just being paranoid when the knocks at the door escalate to thumps, smashing and nasty notes scrawled on windows.

With the power cut, the mobile phone destroyed and the car out of order, the couple have little choice but to bunker down in this unfamiliar home and fight back as best they can against the creepy trio of masked assailants.

There were moments when I wanted to finish Kristen off myself, such as the scene in which she dives into a cutlery drawer to arm herself and grabs a what, a tiny paring knife!

Kristen runs and falls into a ditch, she has a torch but leaves it in a shed, she manages to get to a radio but instead of yelling for help and shouting out her address, whispers “can anyone hear me?” She may not be ready to marry James just yet but nor is she ready to die.

There has been much internet speculation as to the nature of the true events that “inspired” this film but it appears first time director Bryan Bertino actually drew on several stories and myths to create The Strangers rather than one ghastly crime.

All the classic horror movie behaviour is there, with the couple separating rather than staying together and finishing sentences by saying “be careful”. 

Given the action starts at 4am, I held on to a slim sliver of hope that the sun would rise, the increasingly nasty acts of violence would end and the whole thing would be someone’s bad dream.

No chance. What’s scariest is several comments leave the door wide open for a sequel.

 

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Party like it’s 1989

Ah, the 80s, the era of my youth. Well, some of it. There’s nothing better than an 80s dress-up party. But what exactly was I wearing in 1989? Why could I find the album from 1987 but not the one I needed?

This question had me stumped last weekend. I had well and truly moved beyond the fluoro and bubble skirts of high school. I had also moved out of the goth phase. I was probably still hanging around The Underground and dance/house music was just starting to make an impact.

My friend Jane, whom I met in 1988 or 1989 when we were both volunteers at UWA radio station 6UVS (now RTR) suggested I probably had a perm, a memory I had tried to block out. She was right, even without the photos I knew I had a bad spiral perm done in London that year that went tight and curly instead of long and wavy.

Unable to locate photos of exactly what I was wearing circa 1989 I dragged out the Doc Martens boots purchased that year in London, the velvet Katherine Hamnet jacket, the mod-ish tartan mini-skirt and ruined the look entirely with blue eyeshadow, coral-red lips and a big fringe and top pony tail.

See for yourself in the flickr photostream. Ghastly. Really should have borrowed a crimper like others did.

Great party, by the way Simone! And happy 40th again.

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A death in the family

Our children had their first real experience of grief today when we awoke to discover out catfish, Of, had passed away during the night.

Our daughter  originally had two sucker cleaner fish called Of and On, both of whom passed away in quick succession not long after their purchase for her birthday in 2003. A miraculous “visit to Dr Harry” saw one of the fish resurrected, with Of 2 successfully passing itself off as the original Of.

For many years we though Of was a boy but we learned last year he was most likely a she. Of survived battle scars from close encounters with bits of the tank and bugs no doubt introduced by the guppies. She had been sucking mid air without being attached to anything last week and breathing faster than usual but seemed to have recovered.

So our daughter was terribly upset to find Of upside down, eyes open but dead, when the tank light came on this morning. We had a small funeral in the front yard, with Of buried in a green tea box with some jasmine from the garden.

Although we have had plenty of guppies pass away and be farewelled down the toilet, this was our oldest fish, one with a name, one we had watched grow and had grown attached to.

So it was intriguing and slightly alarming to monitor our children’s reactions. Our daughter  asked if she could choose anything she wanted for breakfast. Sure thing. Later she asked if she could have something special, like a VIP membership to the Barbie website. I explained carefully that grief is not usually rewarded with gifts other than flowers.

At four, our son is still a bit young to understand the concept of death. I explained that everyone dies eventually, usually when they are old, and that our dog would eventually pass away. He asked if we would die and I said not for a long time. Later he told my husband that our dog was going to die, and when he did, he would get chocolate.

We have no idea where he got that idea.

The mysteries of the minds of children.

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