The Revenant

Recently, I finally got around to watching The Revenant starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Domnhall Gleeson amongst others.

Now I haven’t been able to watch films as often as I’d like in recent years and had just got back in the groove by viewing a couple (Both animations) before taking on this two and a half hour epic. It might sound daft but I was well aware that the person on screen was Leonardo DiCaprio pretending to be Hugh Glass! Anyway…

Oh, and I did read the book a few years ago but it didn’t really stay with me like one or two other ‘man in the wild’ books.

I liked the attack scenes (Sorry!) early in the movie. I thought that they were well done though I understand that the start of the film had already skipped a lot of the actual Hugh Glass story. And story it is because we’re presented with a Pawnee son whose existence there’s no evidence of in real life. He also looks quite old but I guess that DiCaprio looks young and, well… you know!

The bear scenes are excellent and seemed extremely real given my unqualified understanding of what a bear genuinely does during and even after an attack.

The film does get a little unbelievable in parts but that’s kind of the thing with the whole Hugh Glass story. For a film that lasts so long, it didn’t seem to, in a good way! He’s on a journey that has plenty of variety and kept me engaged.

The supporting cast is strong, though why only one of them goes off with Glass late in the film, I don’t know… but I’m not giving anything away!

It’s a film based on true events that’s been told many times and likely had bits lost and added but as a film, it’s a very good one, not great (That sounds harsh!) but well worth watching.

Disclaimer: Apologies for the angle of the photo… but I was having reflection issues!

Matchbox Twenty

Having previously posted about my declining interest in the band Train…

I felt that another American band merited attention too. Their name… Matchbox Twenty!

They were originally named Matchbox 20 (Not Twenty!) and had evolved from the group Tabitha’s Secret. The band’s first album, titled Yourself or Someone Like You, was released in 1996. The song 3am, which featured on a Tabitha’s Secret album and wasn’t altered much if at all, was one of the hits from the debut record. Long Day, Push and Real World were others.

Kody, Shame and Hang are amongst some of the tracks that appear later on the album. Despite some of the non-singles possessing attitude, they’re generally a little more gentle but help maintain a high quality album.

The record would gain attention later in life when the person on the front of it would claim that he didn’t consent to… being on the front of it!

The five-piece band followed up with 2000s Mad Season and what a record! If You’re Gone is a timeless classic whilst Bent and Last Beautiful Girl were also effective singles. Rest Stop, Leave and Stop are amongst the tracks to help frontman Rob Thomas and co. complete another strong and slightly more polished album.

2002 release More Than You Think You Are does become a little more pop but maintains the character of the band’s music. Disease is the album’s most well known track but Bright Lights and Unwell were strong singles too. You’re So Real and The Difference amongst other songs, help make it a hat-trick of high quality albums for the Orlando originated collective.

It would be a decade before the release of fourth album North and whilst not quite hitting the heights of previous records, it was by no means a disappointment. Crucially, it once again maintained the sound of Matchbox Twenty.

Overjoyed was the hit. It’s a classic love song, not necessarily on a par with If You’re Gone but a good one all the same. The Way (With Kyle Cook on lead vocals) and Sleeping at the Wheel help complete a more than decent fourth album.

Generally Matchbox Twenty’s albums have one song on them that I don’t particularly like. Busted, Feel and Sugar would be the ones but it wouldn’t make sense to like every song.

I still listen to each album and always will. Their albums are high quality with a variety of punchy and more subdued songs that keep your attention throughout.

Do the Euros Matter?

Euro 2020 or Euro 2021… call it what you will!

I don’t want to get into a debate about the morality of football continuing whilst most of us can’t, for the most part, leave our house. For many, having the entertainment of football on their TVs and online is a welcome distraction whilst locked down. It’s entertainment after all!

But a major international tournament, one that despite vaccine progress is likely to be devoid of most if not all fans. Will winning really count? How will achieving such a thing be remembered in history? Of course the players are still playing regularly at domestic level. They qualified for the European Championship so earned the right to compete and go down in history for their efforts.

As is the case in cricket, bio secure bubbles can be maintained though with the number of teams and possibly stadiums, it’s potentially more complicated than two cricket teams facing off on tour. Not to mention that Euro 2020 (Or 21?) is supposed to be played across Europe, not just in one country.

What do you think? How relevant is an international football tournament right now?

Song of the Week #003

Welcome to the third Song of the Week post. Weeks one and two featured solo artists Ben Lee and Sara Bareilles so week three seems like an appropriate time to select a group, well, duo at least…

Here’s MS MR with the song Criminals…

You can find last week’s selection by clicking on the link below…

Have a great week!

Five Cowboy Films to Watch During Lockdown

My last film recommendations post featured five films from the east (Well, Australasia and if we’re using a standard map!)…

Now for five films from the west...

Young Guns (1988)

Emilio Estevez stars as Billy the Kid accompanied by his strong supporting cast of Kiefer Sutherland, Lou Diamond Phillips, Casey Siemaszko, Dermot Mulroney and real life brother Charlie Sheen. Terence Stamp and Jack Palance also feature.

Estevez and co. seek vengeance in this 103 minute western but ruffle a few feathers along the way!

I absolutely love this film and have watched it many times, particularly as a kid and despite the fact that it’s rated 18!

City Slickers (1991)

Billy Crystal goes on a cattle drive to experience life as a real cowboy. Daniel Stern and Bruno Kirby join him as does the aforementioned Jack Palance, who won an Oscar for his supporting role in this comedic adventure.

Silverado (1985)

Another film with a top drawer cast of Scott Glenn, Kevin Costner, Danny Glover, Kevin Cline and Jeff Goldblum amongst others.

The motley crew are assembled by accident rather than design and head into corrupt Silverado!

Dollar for the Dead (1998)

I admittedly may have only watched this film once quite some time ago. It didn’t merit a cinematic release and is basically Emilio Estevez reliving the Young Guns glory days whilst searching for gold!

Young Guns II (1990)

Errr, yeah, bit of a cheat but Christian Slater, Alan Ruck and Balthazar Getty join Estevez’s crew as CSI’s William Petersen portrays Pat Garrett and pursues his old mate.

Even with Garrett gone, Estevez’s new gang don’t always get along, particularly Slater and Lou Diamond Phillips’ characters. It’s a strong follow up to the first film.

Jon Bon Jovi wrote the number one song Blaze of Glory for the film.

I feel obliged to mention some older films and The Cowboys (1972) starring John Wayne merits a mention. Technically a TV series, I also remember Lonesome Dove being very good.

If you do watch any of the above films then keep your eyes peeled for appearances from the likes of Jake Gyllenhaal, Viggo Mortensen, John Cleese and Terry O.Quinn aka Locke form the TV series Lost.

Oh! One more thing… Young Guns III might actually be happening!

Avenue Men’s Shirt

Hi guys

I just wanted to share with you this Avenue shirt that I purchased not that long ago.

It’s made from 100% cotton and has a sort of vertical rib texture. I always wear large size shirts and jumpers etc. This is a comfortable fit providing plenty of ease to stretch. I’m a regular size guy and am always baffled by any average size man wearing medium sized clothes. They must be… tight!

It’s just a really nice style and fit. The shade of green is just my thing as I tend to suit natural, earthy or/and autumnal colours.

Look out for more fashion related posts in the future!

Five More Books to Read During Lockdown

Following on from my post ‘Five Books to Read During Lockdown’…

Here are five more literary recommendations to fill the time if you’re locked down… or to enjoy even if you’re not!

Selkirk’s Island by Diana Souhami

The real life inspiration for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Scotsman Alexander Selkirk was stranded, alone, on the island of Juan Fernandez from 1704 until 1709!

The book details how Selkirk survived, his encounter with the Spanish and how he struggled to adapt to life when returning to Scotland.

It’s an amazing true story of one man’s epic survival!

The Day Job by Mark Waddington

An absolute humdinger of a book about an independent gardener, his clients and trying to stay in business when there are gardening machine teams competing on your patch.

It’s humble, modest, excellent and has a wonderful ending. I thoroughly recommend.

The Long Walk Home by Lynn Schooler

Schooler is the author of another book titled The Blue Bear in which his hiking partner, a Japanese photographer, is dragged from a tent and killed by a bear!

Spoiler Alert! His follow-up doesn’t end so tragically but does detail him being pursued by, or at least being in the habitat of grizzly bears. This is familiar territory for Schooler and his writing skill really does conjure up images of Alaska.

Similar to Philip Connors’ Fire Season (Featured in my previous post), it’s a man, alone in the wilderness and that’s staple reading diet for me. You can find some glorified smug accounts of ex-city boys surviving in the wild but you won’t come across arrogance in the work of Connors or Schooler.

Deep Country by Neil Ansell

In contrast to the works of Connors and Schooler, Ansell’s writing isn’t quite as poetic or romantic. That said, his slightly more diary like account of five years alone in an isolated cottage is a fascinating read. I particularly liked his accounts of the bird life in the area to which Ansell seemed extremely observant.

A Land of Two Halves by Joe Bennett

I think that I read this book shortly before spending a year in New Zealand. It’s funny as hell!

It’s a road trip around Aotearoa where the witty Bennett hitchhikes and chats with locals. I just provided a couple of reviews with cursory glances to remind myself of the details and there’s quite a few negative comments stating that Bennett was himself negative about the country. Ten years ago though, I enjoyed reading it and recall it being extremely amusing!

A Depressing Train Journey!

This train journey takes us to plenty of stops. It’s starts particularly well but the destinations get less and less favourable as the journey goes on. Let’s start at the beginning and sadly, the best stops come first!

Train released their eponymous debut album in 1998. It’s got a countryish vibe and includes beautiful songs such as Blind, I Am and Rat as well as hit song Meet Virginia (Well, it made number 20 in the US charts!).

The band’s second album was titled as per the song that earned the band worldwide recognition. Drops of Jupiter is a great song but a number of other titles on the record shouldn’t be forgotten. She’s on Fire, I Wish You Would, Helpless, Let’s Roll and Respect are high quality songs in their own right. Launched forward by the sound of the hit single, the album reached the top ten on both sides of the Atlantic.

Next came My Private Nation. Singles Calling All Angels and When I Look to the Sky were anthem like hits, to some extent at least. It’s another solid album with a number of decent songs. As well as Get to Me, I particularly like Lincoln Avenue and I’m About to Come Alive. They appear later on the album and are a little understated.

Next came For Me It’s You, which again, is punctuated by a few good songs (Cab and Shelter Me being the standouts) but unlike its predecessors, the really good songs start to be few and far between. It’s still worth a listen and a perfectly respectable album.

From there, things start to rapidly go down hill, in, agonisingly aptly, a train wreck sort of way!

From a country fused indie vibe through to soft rock pop, we now head into out and out pop before stopping at the ultra cheesy pop stop and finally falling out of love with Train!

Save Me San Francisco features a decent song in the form of If It’s Love as well as repeated radio hits Hey Soul Sister and the album’s title track. It’s not horrendously bad but the tide has well and truly turned and the music seems to be being made specifically for a market and less for the soul. Hey Soul Sister!

Follow up Drive By features a couple of respectable songs (Bruises and 50 Ways to Say Goodbye) but we really have reached ‘A couple of singles then album fillers stage’.

As for the next three releases, Bulletproof Picasso, Christmas in Tahoe and Train does Led Zeppelin II, I’m not qualified to offer an opinion, because, you know… I haven’t actually listened to them!

By the time we get to A Girl, a Bottle, a Boat, I’m longing for the days of the first few albums. Still, if you’re going to give an album such an appallingly bad name then you may as well fill it with appallingly bad songs!

Frontman Pat Monahan’s solo album, titled Last of Seven, released somewhere in the middle of Train’s journey, was a high quality album featuring some really good songs, Always Midnight being one as well as Great Escape, Ripple in the Water and Two Ways to Say Goodbye.

Whether or not Monahan has released anything else or Train intend to create any more music is of little interest to me. I’ll listen to the first four (Particularly the first two) albums often enough but unless Train are going to return to their roots then their music will likely only disappoint me… and that’s a shame after such a beautiful start!

215 million views!

Five Oz/NZ Based Films to Watch During Lockdown

Welcome to another ‘Five Films to Watch’ post. For clarity, this selection features films that take place in either Australia or New Zealand. It may be that the films were funded or produced etc. elsewhere.

The Hunter (2011)

Willem Dafoe stars in a film that left me obsessed with the Tasmanian Tiger (I can’t be the only one!). Frances O’Connor and Sam Neill co-star in a movie that’ll make you want to get on a plane and fly to Tasmania… and keep at least one eye peeled for the Thylacine!

Based on Julia Leigh’s 1999 novel of the same name, Dafoe is paid to find the elusive creature but becomes part of a broken family whose husband/father disappeared whilst himself searching for the elusive marsupial.

It’s visually stunning but also heartbreaking!

Siam Sunset (1999)

Disclaimer: Not even an actual trailer, just one of the stunt guys uploading a scene!

One of those films that I likely discovered somewhere between 2 and 4am on either BBC2 or Channel 4 about twenty years ago.

Linus Roache, who I’m sure is a far better actor than his career record suggests, is a paint company chemist who travels to Australia to search for the colour Siam Sunset following the death of his wife. She was killed when a fridge fell from a plane and landed on top of her!

Walkabout (1971)

Jenny Agutter and her little brother are stranded in the outback and try to survive. They receive help from a local (Played by David Gulpilil) who is performing the aboriginal right of passage of going walkabout.

This 1971 film by Nicholas Roeg is held in extremely high regard my many.

Love Birds (2011)

Rhys Darby (Band Manager in Flight of the Conchords), Sally Hawkins and Bryan Brown star in this New Zealand based romance.

After being dumped by his girlfriend, Darby nurses a duck back to health and falls in love with a veterinarian (Played by Hawkins). It’a a kind of sweet (As bro!) light hearted romance sprinkled with the odd dose of serious stuff.

The Rage in Placid Lake (2003)

This film was my introduction to Ben Lee and so I went searching for other films starring him, only to buy all his albums instead… because he isn’t really in any other films!

Rose Byrne co-stars in an odd-ball sort of coming of age, borderline romance that, well… was just my thing!

Another Australian film worth watching that stars both the aforementioned Bryan Brown and Rose Byrne as well as first and foremost Heath Ledger, is Two Hands. Basically, he loses somebody else’s money… and he didn’t want to do that!

Auzkin Dehumidifier

It’s neat, compact and absorbs water. What more do you want? Fancy lights… okay!

This is a tidy little addition to the house if you’ve got moisture, condensation and/or mould etc. It requires plugging in and makes a little noise but the sort of white noise that can help put a child to sleep. The water can build up to its maximum capacity (1000ml) quickly (Four or five days), well, in our small house it can! It’s extremely easy to pull out the draw, dispose of the water then return the draw.

It cost somewhere in the region of £40.00 and you certainly can’t argue with the volume of water that it collects. As you can see from the image, it doesn’t look too intrusive and the noise it makes really is background noise. It’s not going to disturb you, day or night. If you’re having moisture problems at home, this won’t completely solve the problem but it will help.