Friday, January 31, 2014

FILM REVIEW: Ender's Game

Ender’s Game is the 2013 film adaption of the Orson Scott Card novel. It was released on the 1st of November 2013 and stars Asa Butterfield, Harrison Ford and Hailee Steinfeld. Ender’s Game is one of the most well known and popular science fiction novels around.


PLOT

The Earth was ravaged by the Formics, an alien race seemingly determined to destroy humanity. Seventy years later, the people of Earth remain banded together to prevent their own annihilation from this technologically superior alien species. Ender Wiggin, a quiet but brilliant boy, may become the saviour of the human race. He is separated from his beloved sister and his terrifying brother and brought to battle school in orbit around earth. He will be tested and honed into an empathetic killer who begins to despise what he does as he learns to fight in hopes of saving Earth and his family.

WHY I WATCHED

I was definitely late to the Ender’s Game novel which is huge in the sci-fi literary community despite the questionable views of Orson Scott Card. The book sucks you in despite being one of the largely depressing stories I have ever read, the thing is though the story is grim for a reason so it is ultimately an enjoyable experience.

I could be considered a book freak and I have a chequered past, we will not speak of most of the Harry Potter films, in fact the only shining example of a book to film translation I can think of is Odd Thomas. So I went into Ender’s Game slightly worried that it would be more of the same especially given this is a story that takes place almost entirely in Ender’s head I shouldn’t have been worried though because even though there are significant changes from the book you aren’t left puzzled by the plot developments or character motivations.


WHAT I THOUGHT

So if you have come this far into the review and are planning to go check this film out then let me point out something that I would have liked to know going in though it would not have stopped me watching. Valentine and Peter are pretty much after thoughts in this film and are included only as much as they are needed to march on Ender’s plot. So their plots back on Earth where they pretty much take over are gone, the stuff after the final battle also gone.

OK now that is out of the way we can move on to what made it into the film which is still rather a lot despite a little compression to fit it into a film. If you think that they took the violent stuff out of the story to lower the rating well actually they didn't and those scenes should make even the toughest person wince.

Apart from the bucket loads of young male angst in Ender’s Game there is also the awesomeness of the matches to break up the monotony. I must confess to absolutely geeking out when I saw the first zero gravity battle. The battles are everything you could hope for after reading about them and they help to show off best Ender’s creativity especially given a lot of the back and forth in Ender’s head is cut from the plot.

So far I have talked a lot about the reader’s probable reaction to Ender’s Game but I feel like should look at things from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read the book and knows next to nothing about the book. If I were such a person I would ask the following, does the plot make sense i.e. has the translation to screen resulted in a storyline that can no longer be followed if you were not familiar with the original story. 

Ender’s Game the film is probably best thought of as an action adventure with a brain, strip away all the layers and it is a film about the harsh reality of war and what it does to the soldiers invested in it, granted though when I describe it like that is sounds a lot more sombre than it appears in execution.

In closing Ender’s Game is a good book to film translation it could have been excellent with the inclusion or even significant mention of Peter’s and Valentine’s story but their exclusion is understandable, fans of the book should come out of the film reasonably content with what made it to screen and their friends and family along for the ride should be rewarded with an entertaining film with a central character struggling with the darkness he fears is inside him.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

FILM REVIEW: Carrie (2013)

Carrie (2013) is a 2013 horror film based on the story by Stephen King, there was an earlier film adaption starring Sissy Spacek. The film stars Chloe Grace Moretz and Julianne Moore and was released in the US on 18th October 2013. It was directed by Kimberley Peirce and written by Lawrence D Cohen and Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa.

THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.

PLOT

A reimagining of the classic horror tale about Carrie White, a shy girl outcast by her peers and sheltered by her deeply religious mother, who unleashes telekinetic terror on her small town after being pushed too far at her senior prom.

WHY I WATCHED

I can barely remember Carrie but there isn’t a lot to remember when you think about it, the plot is concise it is the scares that bring you to the theatre. I’m a fan of Chloe Grace Moretz and when I did the sums I figured it was hard to do this remake badly so I took the plunge.

WHAT I THOUGHT

Does what it says on the tin is probably the easiest way to sum things up. What this film succeeds in doing is taking a plot premise in this case revenge and dressing it up in a believable way. For instance it was just hard watching ‘the’ scene where between Carrie’s ignorance and the cruel streak of the girls around her the darkness inside and her powers are formed.

One of the most interesting things is the boyfriend of the popular girl, Sue who is actually a pretty stand up guy and calls her out on the prank and is initially very against the whole prom date but then when he agrees he treats her properly. Sue’s apology is more from a place of guilt than anything.

We need him to balance out the bitchy, evil and crazy that is most of the other characters in this film. We feel sympathy for Carrie but she is far from normal thanks to her severely messed up childhood and as the finale of the film shows she carried a darkness too.


The final act of the film from Prom onwards is pretty spectacular though I don’t think I would call it scary, tastefully gruesome? Yeah but nothing that is likely to give you nightmares, no that would be more likely from the opening act than of the final one. The effects are wonderful and draw you in just like they should in brief moments it could be compared to Chronicle which blew my mind.


All in all I would say if you have seen the original Carrie it is worth taking a look at this one, it offers something unique and well-made not just another lazy remake, if you have never seen Carrie then you should check this out as a Horror not likely to trouble those of a delicate disposition and hey there’s Chloe Grace Moretz so you might as well get on board with that hype train because she is destined for huge things.

DWP Complaint - RESOLVED with Compensation

So when I went to the Jobcentre to talk with their CSOM about my ongoing issues with Seetec during that visit I mentioned the complaint that I had sent to DWP and he said he would chase it up. On Monday I got a letter back from the DWP from their Customer Services Team. I copied it below because unfortunately I don't have a scanner.



Thank you for your letter received xx-xx-xx regarding the sanction that was applied to your claim for Jobseekers Allowance (JSA). I apologise for the delay in my reply.

I would like to assure you that Jobcentre Plus considers very seriously all customer complaints made about the delivery of its service. I am very sorry that your experience did not meet the high standards to which we aspire and I apologise for the delay in getting the decision overturned and distress and inconvenience that you suffered.

I have looked at your claim and can confirm your case has been submitted for a special payment for gross inconvenience.

In the exceptional circumstances of your case I have decided to award a special payment of £50.00.

Special consolatory payments are made in very exceptional circumstances where an official error has had a direct adverse effect on the life of the customer and/or on the life of another person. It should be remembered that some dealings with the Department, whether or not an error occurs, may take time and that complying with the law can often be frustrating or inconvenient and sometimes stressful.

A payment for gross inconvenience resulting from official error will only be made if the errors made are so persistent and over such a protracted period of time that it causes the customer clear difficulties in the pursuit of benefits, or pursuing a justified complaint about relevant matters.

After considering the circumstances of your case it is clear that this applies to your dealings with the Department for Work and Pensions. I have therefore awarded a special consolatory payment of £50.00 in recognition of the errors made with your benefit claim. This amount is similar to other awards made to other Jobcentre Plus customers where customer service standards have fallen short.

This could not have happened without the help of Refuted.org.uk a resource that anyone feeling pressured by the Jobcentre or Work Programme Providers like Seetec should visit to arm themselves with knowledge.

Seetec Update

Also today I got a letter from Seetec head office (FINALLY), an acknowledgement of the complaint and explaining that the details of complaint had been passed onto my local Seetec, which is going to make for a few awkward visits to Seetec starting from next week when I have another Job search.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

SEETEC TIMELINE

2nd January                         

After exhausting the internal complaints procedure ending with a written complaint that the Seetec manager refused to respond to in writing instead making veiled threats and intimidation at a meeting. [Written acknowledgement of your complaint should be sent 3 days after they receive it]

10th January                       

Failed to receive acknowledgement of my complaint called Seetec head office, no record of receiving my letter so told to email the complaint through to the contact email.

17th January                       

Still failed to receive acknowledgement of my complaint so called Seetec again, this time informed that the person who deals with complaints (amazingly there is only one in a business with more than a dozen offices around the UK) was away from the office. So I left my number and was told the staff member would be back in on Monday.

So there you have it after 2 weeks of submitting a formal complaint to Seetec, they have managed an amazing dance where they have yet to admit to actually receiving it in any form despite it being mailed and then emailed to them.

TIPS

So this doesn’t happen to you Recorded Delivery is an option but like me you may well be counting the pennies. You should also do what I did and keep chasing up regularly if you submit a written complaint to head office you should receive acknowledgement after 3 working days.

I should probably also mention that this is not my first trip to the rodeo as I put in a complaint a year ago or so and amazingly that one ended up being lost the first time around too but that is of course coincidence.

Back then I didn’t know about the acknowledgement step so wasted a month before chasing them up. So this post is there so hopefully you won’t suffer the same fate.

Monday, January 13, 2014

BOOKS: The Start Of A New Year

Allegiant


For me it was a bit of a let-down but not on the same level as say the 2 and 3 of the Hunger Games trilogy. The main problem for me was the sheer amount of change introduced in such a short time. To go from everything we thought we knew to a whole new world was too much to put into the last book of a trilogy.

Plus there was the change to Four’s personality, he went from a badass to someone who second guessed himself over his choice of toothpaste it was ridiculous. He doesn’t have to be perfect but it was too much of a change. It was more a change in personality than we got with Tris having killed her friend.

The Hunt For Red October



I was blown away by how good the book was to be honest I thought it would be too dated to be able to relate to but it was an excellent read. I have never seen the movie myself and this doesn’t make me want to just because of the huge detail contained in the book which would have been left on the cutting room floor in Hollywood.

The book delve into the full aspects of war and spares none of the technical and political details which makes for interesting reading especially for someone like me who was still a bit too young at the time to truly understand the nature of the Cold War and the fear we in the West had of Communism.

It is just a shame that it took the death of Tom Clancy to make me seek out his body of work.

So as this is all about books let me take this time to declare that I intend to read 80 books this year, you should be able to follow my progress using my goodreads widget on the right hand side of the blog. Feel free to comment with your own aims for the years bookwise.


HAPPY READING.

Friday, January 10, 2014

My Meeting With Jobcentre Re: Seetec Tactics

So on I went to see the CSOM at my local Jobcentre. That is the Customer Services Operations Manager for those who don’t know, I know I certainly didn’t until a friend who worked in DWP explained things to me. The reason for setting up the meeting was because CSOMs meet up weekly with the Work Programme Providers in the area for whatever reason. I thought that CSOM should know what Seetec is up to.



He listened to my issues though the pad on which he could make notes remained clean. He advised me to follow through with the complaints procedure at Seetec and I explained to him how the manager there tried to circumvent their own complaint procedures by refusing to respond to a written complaint.

One thing that did seem to get a slight reaction out of him was when I mentioned Seetec using a mysterious Jobcentre employee to agree with their decision to refuse to help with the costs of attending interviews. That got an eye twitch but not much more than that.

That is all that is happening on the soap opera that is my ongoing Seetec struggles the next update will happen sometime after Monday but it might take some time as I am preparing for interviews on Tuesday and Friday.


Keep warm people and stay strong.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Brand New Year - Same Old Battle

[So things are still much the same I enclose this post from Unemployment Movement that talks about getting threatened with sanctions after continuing my complaint about not getting help with the costs of interviews]

You can see the thread here.


So there has been an ongoing argument regarding help with the costs of going to interviews which has gone back and forth and resulted in letters to my MP, complaints to Seetec head office and a whole lot of intimidation when attending Seetec. Things came to a head on the 30/12 when I was in for a job search. I had been asked to write a letter if I disagreed with the decision that the Seetec local manager made to deny all future requests for the reimbursement of interview expenses so I did back on the 03/12 only to hear nothing.

I asked about it and finally got called to the manager's office. Despite making it clear in the letter that as I had to write to her I expected a written response, she said that she preferred to speak in person. She then stated that she had been on the phone to the Jobcentre who told her that they agree with her decision to stop helping because I had been unsuccessful in previous interviews (This was a lie) she also went on to state that Seetec could change the details of my jobseeker's agreement on a whim because I had been unemployed for more than a year and the Jobcentre representative apparently agreed to that to, I told her politely that was a load of nonsense.

She then threatened to start submitting me for a load of jobs I was unsuitable for so she could sanction me and then said it was up to me whether or not I wanted to continue with my written complaint.

So there it is threatening me to try and get me to quiet down which is not going to happen and using the Jobcentre to lend her credibility, I have a friend who works as the assistant to CSOM and explained about the dozens of complaints she gets about Seetec where she works and no one in the jobcentre would say the things the Seetec manager claimed.

I am now going to book a meeting with my local CSOM after the New Year to tell the Jobcentre about the fraudulent activity of Seetec and I will be continuing with my complaint including these latest details.

Look forward to future posts with a little more positive content plus there is a job interview coming up.
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