Capsule Reviews: Movies (Walk of Shame, The Love Punch, etc.)

Batman: Assault on Arkham (2014)

Batman: Assault on Arkham is set in the universe of the Batman: Arkham video game franchise, and occurs after the events of Batman: Arkham Origins. The story focuses primarily on the Suicide Squad, particularly Batman villains Deadshot and Harley Quinn, with Batman in a supporting role. In the film, a Suicide Squad of six hardened, super-powered criminals is dispatched by Amanda Waller to break into Arkham Asylum and retrieve a specific item, where they must contend with the asylum’s inmates, including the dangerous as always Joker, and not to mention the ever present Batman, as they attempt to complete their mission.

When we first heard that the latest offering in the excellent DC Universe Animated Original Movies line was to be yet another Batman title, we sighed. But as it turns out, Batman isn’t exactly the star of this particular outing, making for quite the nice twist as we follow a rampaging group trying to achieve their goal and thus buy their freedom, against some pretty overwhelming odds. It is to date the most violent (and graphically so) outing in this great movie line, but ignoring that this genuinely isn’t a half bad attempt at doing something different and it certainly entertains from start to finish, with more than a few surprises hidden up its sleeve. It’s a solid, good looking animated film that is a great watch for any Batman comic book fans.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 85%

batman assault on arkham movie screenshot

Walk of Shame (2014)

Walk of Shame stars Elizabeth Banks as a resourceful reporter whose one-night stand with a handsome stranger (James Marsden) leaves her stranded the next morning in downtown Los Angeles without a phone, car, ID, or money – and only 8 hours before the most important job interview of her career.

This movie had me laughing out loud, and as such, is a genuinely laugh out loud comedy that will keep you entertained from start to finish. Elizabeth Banks is thoroughly entertaining in her role, and as a whole the movie is well put together and a proper polished comedy gem, despite the weirdly low Rotten Tomatoes rating. Both Chantelle and I loved it, making it well worth it as a date night watch!

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 12%

walk of shame movie screenshot

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)

There is a new criminal mastermind at large-Professor Moriarty (Jared Harris) – and not only is he Sherlock Holmes’ (Robert Downey Jr.) intellectual equal, but his capacity for evil, coupled with a complete lack of conscience, may actually give him an advantage over the renowned detective. When the Crown Prince of Austria is found dead, the evidence, as construed by Inspector Lestrade, points to suicide. But Sherlock Holmes deduces that the prince has been the victim of murder – a murder that is only one piece of a larger and much more portentous puzzle, designed by Professor Moriarty. The cunning Moriarty is always one step ahead of Holmes and Watson as he spins a web of death and destruction – all part of a greater plan that, if he succeeds, will change the course of history.

I enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s first stab at Sherlock Holmes very much, and as such, Holme’s second outing is equally as enjoyable. The second installment is as expected, louder, longer, and perhaps a little more action-orientated than the first (which is in truth a pity), but nevertheless remains a great action/mystery film watch with superb action, style, and filmography. Definitely worth picking up!

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 60%

sherlock holmes a game of shadows movie screenshot

The Love Punch (2013)

In a nutshell, a divorced couple of pensionable age (Pierce Brosnan as Richard Jones and Emma Thompson as Kate Jones), have their retirement nest egg wiped out when Richard’s investment firm is defrauded and the pension fund is siphoned away. Learning that the unscrupulous French financier behind the scheme has just purchased a $10 million diamond for his bride to be, the divorced duo grudgingly agree to set aside their differences, head over to France, and hatch a plot to gate-crash the wedding and steal the jewel.

Sadly, this movie just doesn’t work. Despite the talent and one or two chuckle-worthy moments, the whole plot is just too contrived and as a whole, The Love Punch comes across as a bungled attempt at classic caper cinema. Everything runs too smoothly, there are too many leaps in plot and as a whole, nothing feels believable behind the whole adventure. Not worth checking out to be honest.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 27%

the love punch movie screenshot

And Sometimes even Trained Mommies get it wrong! Part II

Almost exactly three years ago, Chantelle gnashed her teeth and threw her arms up into the air in exasperation after turning all of baby Jess’ clothes pink thanks to an errant red baby tracksuit pants that was in the wash.

This time around, all of baby Emily’s clothing is now blue (plus our bathroom mat), thanks to an errant navy blue baby pants that was in the washing machine.

Luckily, Emily happens to look cute no matter what she wears! :)

Oh, and just because our baby-toothed, solid food munching Emily doesn’t get all that much exposure on this here blog these days, here are a couple of photos of her chilling at the Baby Steps creche:

emily lotter at baby steps

emily lotter in her cot at baby steps

emily lotter with the other babies at baby steps

See, cute as a button, isn’t she?

(Extra note: Baby Steps is using preschool2me to provide us with daily reports these days, which means that we get treated to a new photo of Emily in her now natural habitat each and every day. Much more fun that the boring old book they used back in Jess’ time!)

AfriForum SMS Spam a Scam?

I received this delightful gem in my SMS inbox yesterday:

AfriForum spreek beweerde bedrog aan by Elandsbaai Vismark. Ons kort ALMAL se hulp. SMS jou naam na 45265 (R1) of STOP om te staak.

This isn’t the first SMS message I’ve received from AfriForum in recent weeks mind you, though that said, I have no idea if this is indeed the work of AfriForum at all!

It’s probably best to begin with the fact that I have no affiliation to the group whatsoever – they appear to be an Afrikaaner non-profit rights group that seem particularly keen on bringing to light corruption, especially when it affects Afrikaaners. Now I’m not particularly fond of activist groups composed around a particular aspect like language, ethnicity, demographic or religion, which in turn means that I am VERY much sure that I’ve never previously interacted with the group whatsoever, hence the particular dislike for this spam that keeps hitting my SMS inbox. (The Democratic Alliance (DA) spam is at least tolerable, annoying make no mistake, but tolerable, purely because I at least vote for the party so therefore I can expect them to have my details on file).

Anyway, I’m getting sidetracked. My question is simple, is the AfriForum SMS simply spam or a more insidious scam?

Why? Well the use of a premium rated shortcode bothers me here. The minute a premium rated shortcode comes into play then you know that somewhere, someone is making money. If the premium rate was high, let’s say R10 or R20, then it feels like a donation drive and as such you can be pretty sure to find some news around the campaign somewhere in the media, thus validating it. If you don’t, well then it is probably scam and you should definitely not be responding to it.

However, at such a low premium rated number, based on the percentage split that the initiating party receives for an incoming SMS, it becomes very difficult to make a large amount of money unless you are guaranteed a very large reply base, which then raises the question, why use a premium rated shortcode at all? I work in this industry so I know how easy it is to set up a shortcode that can make me a few bucks in just a handful of minutes. Who is to say that this isn’t exactly what is going on here? If AfriForum did indeed set this up, then they need to publicize it in the media in order to let the public know it is legitimate. Searching on their website or on Google turns up nothing regarding Elandsbaai + AfriForum, which means that I have to infer that this could quite possible be a scam and that somewhere, someone is hoping to line their pockets with a little bit of Afrikaaner coin.

So AfriForum, scam or not?

sms message received on a mobile phone otherwise known as a cellphone

The Second Court Summons lands at Country Mews

wooden-judge-hammer-gavelHaving bought our house back in 2010, it only took two years for the first court summons for one of the previous owners, Blanche Smit, to arrive. Par for the course, it’s taken another two years for the next court summons to arrive for our dear Ms B. Smit.

First time around it was Nedbank going after her, this time around it is Standard Bank. As with the last incident, I flat out refused to accept the documents that the Sheriff dropped off at our home, but as is the rules, he left it here anyway.

Two things that annoy me. One, the summons dropped off mentions that the first attempt was delivered here via registered post. It wasn’t, which then begs the question – just how reliable is registered post from the Post Office? Two, it was relatively simple for Chantelle to hop onto FaceBook and find Blanche Smit – surely the law firm handling this could achieve this as well? Heck, they have her ID number, surely they should be able to hold of her? (Looks like she just got married. I suspect the new hubby could be in for a bit of a shock when all of this does eventually catch up to her).

Anyway, in the hopes that a letter might get the lawyers to stop sending stuff to my home, I fired off this mail:

To whom it may concern,

With regards to the matter [5120570201379886] [NA078974], the court summons for Ms B Smit has been delivered by the Sheriff to an address where she is no longer present, and as such this summons has not being accepted by the current owners of the aforementioned address.

I, Craig Lotter, purchased the property at 5 Country Mews, Olienhout Road, Gordon’s Bay in 2010 from Michael Pottage and Blanche Smit. I do not know where either of them currently reside, but considering that I can find them with relative ease on Facebook, I’m sure that you could too.

Also, the summons was delivered to my address by the Sheriff, with an attachment saying that it had previously been delivered here via registered post. This is wrong as no such registered post was ever received here. Something also worth checking up with the Post Office.

Please detach the address of 5 Country Mews from the particulars of B. Smit as I am tired of getting notices related to her foolish and dishonest actions.

Regards,
Craig Lötter

Futile I realise, but satisfactory in a small way.

[UPDATE 2014-08-21]
Less futile than I thought. Received this in my inbox this morning:

Good day Sir,

Thank you for your advises herein and the inconvenience suffered by you.

Kindly note that we have removed your physical address from our systems.

We trust that you find the above information satisfactory to you.

Have to say, I’m impressed.

MRP.com: Mens Fashion T-shirts

Spring is pretty much on our doorstep now, meaning that it’s back to shorts, t-shirts and slip-slops before you can blink again. As per usual, anything goes when it comes down to tees, and this season, MRP’s RT brand brings to you the hottest prints and coolest fits – at unbelievable prices.

Guys, we’ve got you covered with statement tees for just R49.99!

Get your message across with printed slogans, cool colours and fresh fits – and then complete the look with summer’s most wanted shades and caps.

For all the designs, prints and options, hit the official MRP.com wesbite!

mrp.com mens fashion t-shirts rectangle

(Please note that this is a Sponsored Post, placed via the MyScoop blog advertising network.)

mrp.com mens fashion t-shirts banner

Related Link: http://goo.gl/sGZv4f

Windows: How to Get your Laptop’s Serial Number and Model Name

20091016-Windows-Command-PromptMost big name laptops and desktops all have serial numbers and model names, useful bits of information when looking up tech assistance. This information is usually printed on stickers and placed somewhere on either the bottom or the back of the device, but as we all know, stickers aren’t exactly the most permanent of solutions three or four years down the line.

If you are running Microsoft Windows (tested on Windows 7, Fujitsu Lifebook A Series laptop), and have lost your serial number or want to find out the model name, open up a command prompt (search for and execute cmd.exe in the Windows start menu).

With your DOS prompt now open, run:

wmic bios get serialnumber

This will retrieve your laptop’s serial number. To get the product name, run:

wmic csproduct get name

Useful to remember.

For interest’s sake, the heavy lifting is being done by Windows Management Instrumentation Command-line (WMIC), which uses the power of Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI) to enable systems management from the command line. See the related link for more info.

Related link: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb742610.aspx

Capsule Reviews: Anime and Movies (The LEGO Movie, Paul, etc.)

War of the Worlds: Goliath (2012)

War of the Worlds: Goliath is a 2012 Malaysian animated science fiction film directed by Joe Pearson that was released in November 15, 2012 in Malaysia. Unlike other War of the Worlds films, this film is a loose sequel to H. G. Wells’ novel The War of the Worlds.

With strong dieselpunk/steampunk undertones, the film is set in an alternate reality Manhattan, New York City, in 1914, just before the First World War. As it happened, Earth was invaded and laid waste to by Martian invaders, doing most of their damage via giant tripod battle machines. However, the invaders eventually succumbed to common Earth bacteria, thus allowing humanity to recover and rebuild.

However, the aliens are set to return, now immune to Earth’s bacteria, setting the stage for a second confrontation. This time around though, humanity, having learned a few tricks of their own since the first war, are ready – as are their giant battle mecha!

Honestly, this wasn’t very good as a whole. The backdrops are generally beautiful and well animated, but the main characters and action sequences not so much. Simple lines, over-muscular builds on all the male characters, and often very flat CG overlay effects (particularly for things like fire, lasers and explosions), means that visually not everything works on this one. The story is relatively simple and just a little too ‘rah rah’ for me as well, and I have to be honest, despite one or two nice ideas (particularly the steampunk aspect of it all), I struggled to make it through this one in a single sitting.

It isn’t for kids I don’t think (given all the death rays employed to great success), but it doesn’t really work for adults either, leaving this film stranded in a bit of a no man’s land scenario really. Not recommended, nor worth the time.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: N/A

war of the worlds goliath movie

The LEGO Movie (2014)

The Lego Movie is a 2014 computer animated adventure comedy film directed and co-written by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, and featuring the voices of Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson, and Morgan Freeman.

Based mainly on the Lego line of construction toys, the film tells the story of an ordinary Lego minifigure named Emmet prophesied to save the Lego universe from the tyrannical Lord Business who plans to use the Kragle to glue everything in place.

Sounds simple enough, but oh my goodness, what a fantastic, heartfelt film that is guaranteed to please absolutely anyone who watches it – provided of course they’ve had some sort of exposure to LEGO in their lifetime. It pushes all the right buttons, features humour on levels for both young and old, carries a huge sense of nostalgia for older viewers, and then to top it all off, tugs equally hard at the heartstrings at the very end.

It’s a fantastic tale, that is brilliantly done, featuring the perfect voice actors, fantastically clever visuals and an awesome soundtrack. Having gushed all that, by now you might just have guessed as to how much I enjoyed The LEGO Movie – and just how much I recommend you see it, especially with your kids!

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 96%

the lego movie emmet batman and wild style

Paul (2011)

Paul is a 2011 British-American Comic science fiction road film directed by Greg Mottola and written by and starring Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, with Seth Rogen as the voice of the title character. The film is about two British science fiction fans who meet an ET-like alien who has a sarcastic manner and a penchant for alcohol and cigarettes. The two help the alien to escape secret service agents who are pursuing him so he can return to his home planet.

Hmm, I have to say, I’ve come to realize that I’m not actually such a big fan of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost buddy movies after all. Paul has a moment or two, but to be honest, it felt as if it just lumbered through some over the top scenarios (one after the other) and just didn’t put in the necessary laugh a minute punches to make it a memorable comedy film. Maybe it is because I’m a little jaded, but I have to say, I can’t really remember enjoying this one all that much.

Still, the CG visuals are great, and the soundtrack pretty good too – plus, the surprise ending certainly proved a unsuspected treat!

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 71% (looks like a lot of people enjoyed it after all).

paul movie simon pegg nick frost

Æon Flux (2005)

Four hundred years in the future, Aeon Flux is the top underground operative at war with the totalitarian regime governing what appears to be a perfect society. But is this perfect life hiding a perfect lie? Aeon is on the front lines of a rebellion that will reveal a world of secrets.

Hmm, it’s hard to say that I found Aeon Flux a complete disappointment, primarily because at the end of the day I really did enjoy the visual style, the visuals themselves, and all futuristic concepts on display. That said, the acting is perhaps not the greatest in the world, and there are some action sequences that are just too over the top (read silly) to be enjoyable. The story starts out interesting enough and there is certainly twists and turns that you don’t see coming, but it feels jerky quite often in terms of pacing, and there are just too many implausible logical jumps (and twists), all of which combine with some seriously dull dialogue that eventually just weighs the movie down.

Honestly, it probably isn’t worth watching, even if you adored the original MTV cartoons. Unless of course you’re a big Charlize Theron fan that is.

Rotten Tomatoes rating: 10% (That rating seems a little harsh to me)

aeon flux movie charlize theron

The Skull Man (2007)

Studio BONES adapted Skull Man into an anime TV series which premiered on Fuji TV in April 2007. The series is directed by Takeshi Mori and written by Yutaka Izubuchi. Unlike the previous Skull Man, the story closely focuses on a journalist named Hayato Mikogami who returns to his hometown at Otomo to investigate strange rumors of killings done by a man wearing a skull mask. Tailed tightly by a young photographer, Kiriko Mamiya, the two soon uncover the many strings of connections between the victims, a local pharmaceutical company, a mysterious new religious sect, and strange half human, half animal creatures, which roam the night streets for blood.

Nice and short, lots of intrigue and some decent twists and turns (even if the plot does hasten a little too fast towards the end) makes for an enjoyable viewing that starts out strong, fumbles a bit during the middle, and then picks up some good steam to deliver an action-packed finale – which doesn’t necessarily satisfy the viewer mind you. Dark visuals, slick animation and a generally likable cast makes for a decent drama/horror watch that will certainly entertain followers of the genre.

In the end, I did enjoy the viewing, though I can’t necessarily say that I loved it. Worth catching given the slickness of production though.

the skull man anime

A Lotter Updates to Be Made

It has been a really, really long time since I dropped a personal post down in these pages. I don’t really have any usable excuse – two little girls keeps you pretty busy, and after a long day of desk-bound keyboard bashing work, followed by play time, supper time, and finally bed time, means that come the few hours before bed, I’d much rather do something else than spend even more time behind the keyboard. Still, it has been a long time and well, there’s loads of updates to deliver I guess.

jessica lotter

On Jessica, she’s absolutely flourishing at Vergeet-My-Nie playschool, turning into a real little girl who loves to play with her Barbies, has a fixation with all things My Little Pony, is fascinated by Teen Titans Go!, and is thoroughly enjoying her weekly ballet lesson. Make no mistake, she can get grumpy and tends to cry a lot if things don’t go her way, but that normalcy aside, she really is a little darling.

The bike riding isn’t really coming along, but that’s partly our fault – we don’t really practice very often with her. She still plays with the girls in the complex though, and I’ll often come home to find a small gaggle of girls having overrun the place!

Sadly, she has a cavity in her one tooth (confirmed by the dentist) which will have to be fixed sooner than later, but man, dentistry is expensive! Also, she’s inherited my overbite, meaning braces will most certainly be staring her down come her teenage future. Sigh.

emily lotter

Emily is just plain adorable! She smiles at anything and everything, and now that she has finally outgrown her bad reflux, she’s much, much easier for me to love even more (it grated me that every time I used to pick her up, she’d throw up on me. Sigh, the pleasures of being a daddy I suppose). Anyway, she now spends her days at Baby Steps creche (where Jess went), and it’s nice to see how well she is progressing in comparison to Jess at her age – Emily can sit independently (with pillows packer around her for just in case!), has been holding her own bottle during feeds for ages now, is eating solids like sweet potato and butternut, and has two nice and sharp, protruding teeth in her bottom jaw. (Funny, because she seems to take great pleasure in taking a nip at Chantelle’s nipple every now and then during breastfeeding!)

Oh, and you should see how she flaps her arms and legs and squeals in delight whenever she spots Chantelle for the first time in a little while! Too adorable for words! :)

(On the breastfeeding note, I’m not sure how much longer I’m going to be able to live with that incessant groaning noise that Chantelle’s breast pump makes during her daily milk expression sessions! Still, it is a lot cheaper than formula, so I guess I can’t complain that much…)

chantelle lotter

Chantelle is keeping pretty busy, she successfully completed her wedding cake course presented by Angie Boyd of Vanilla House fame, and aside from being the primary caregiver of Emily and Jess outside of work hours, she is still keeping her little baking venture in the form of Chantelle’s Cupcakery alive and well.

Also, she’s joined an informal walking club here in Gordon’s Bay, and now quite happily does a handful of 7+ km walks every week!

On the baking business front, sadly it must be said that Chantelle’s Cupcakery is struggling somewhat in terms of finances. As it turns out, trading at the markets just isn’t so financially viable when it comes to cakes and cupcakes, and in addition to losing that business, the big contract with Sacred Ground deli was ended, picked up again, and then finally ended for good from their side, meaning a big income blow there as well.

Also, believe it or not, there is a lot of baking competition here in Gordon’s Bay, and it would seem that the local market just isn’t the right fit for what Chantelle does. Nevertheless, we do have some plans up our sleeves, and of course, a change of market may go a long way in turning things around financially. All that said and done, the good news is that Chantelle is already starting to see some traction on the wedding cake front – which is of course exciting news for the business.

craig lotter

As for me, on the work front I’m still battling as a DevOp/Team Manager on the Touchwork front, a task made harder by the recent loss of my senior development resource to takealot.com – honestly, I’ve been on this front for a while now, and I have to say, I’m beginning to tire of it.

Boring work stuff aside though, this year thus far has been pretty good in terms of family getaways (a good thing, because I enjoy getting away from the house) – and is about to get EVEN better for me with the “two brothers travel to Japan” adventure looming up just around the corner! (More of which I’ll detail in a separate post, promise.)

As I said at the start of this post though, two little girls tends to keep one pretty busy, meaning still no extramural activities for me (bad), and unfortunately this blasted dark all the time Winter mornings and evenings has meant a complete stall of exercise (even worse). Sigh.

I have interestingly enough being gaming a fair bit again, interesting because I had kind of gone off gaming, but obviously it’s a hobby good enough to fill that little hole left by the rather diminished social life I lead at the moment. On a different interests’ front, sadly, outside of the more mature DC animated movies which I still pick up and watch without fail, my love for animated fare hasn’t returned – meaning that I guess have to now accept the inevitable fact that I have matured to a point where I can no longer watch kiddies television and gain enjoyment from it. Sad. (That said, I am currently enjoying watching Teen Titans Go! with Jessica. It makes me chuckle. Don’t judge.)

Asset news? Well one positive is that our 2010 Hyundai Getz is almost completely paid off, in just less than two years before the original signed repayment term ends. This is of course great news in terms of interest saved and even better because of the incoming boost to our monthly finances once that monthly car repayment debit is no more. (Important because as mentioned earlier, Chantelle’s business that is not performing well for a while now).

On the moving back to Bellville front – sadly our house still hasn’t been sold, and it has to be said, we’re not seeing much foot traffic in the form of potential buyers at the moment. It could be that winter has chased everyone away, but the reality is that the property just isn’t proving popular with buyers, much to the bewilderment of Len our property agent in charge of selling the house. Hopefully spring/summer will heat things up again, but Chantelle and I have pretty much resigned ourselves to the fact that we’ll be in Gordon’s Bay for much of this year after all, so much so that I even went and put back up all the baking/braai room shelving that I had taken down in order to sell the house! (A project that takes the better part of a day I’ll have you know.)

Anyway, so that’s pretty much all the updates I think that needed to be given, meaning the only thing still to do is play catch up on all the photo galleries I avoided posting over the last couple of months!

craig, chantelle, jessica and emily lotter

(Eventually. This post took ages to churn out I’ll have you know!)

How to Preview a Shortened Google URL (goo.gl)

sexy-hot-google-girlActually, there is a pretty nifty trick if you want to dereference (preview) a shortened goog.gl link (that was created using the Google URL shortener) in order to make sure that it isn’t linking to something dodge like 9gag.com.

To see where a shortened goo.gl link points to, paste the shortened link with a plus at the end into your browser and hit go. (So if link is http://goo.gl/KDQsVr enter http://goo.gl/KDQsVr+ into your browser.)

Google will then bring up an analytics page showing you the link, how many times it has been clicked on, where it points to, as well as the associated QR code. It even has stats on referrers, browsers, countries and platforms.

Very useful indeed, and apparently this trick works for bit.ly shortened links as well.

Outside of that, there are also a number of websites out there that perform the same function, longurl.org for example being one of them.

Related Link: https://goo.gl/

PHP: Return Random Element in Array

A quick and easy PHP code snippet to return a random element from a given array:

$items = array('yellow','green','red');
echo $items[array_rand($items)];

All the hard work is being done by the native array_rand php function. Essentially, array_rand picks one or more random entries out of an array, and returns the key (or keys) of the random entries.

Here is an example picking out two random elements from an array:

$input = array("Neo", "Morpheus", "Trinity", "Cypher", "Tank");
$rand_keys = array_rand($input, 2);
echo $input[$rand_keys[0]] . "\n";
echo $input[$rand_keys[1]] . "\n";

Quick and easy.

php-banner-strip

Related Link: http://php.net/manual/en/function.array-rand.php