Boston

I’ve read a lot of books, it’s basically what I do, but I recently came across a phenomena that I’ve never really experienced before; descriptive writing that encapsulated me, and really made me want to visit the location in question.

 

Let me contextualise this a little; lately I decided to start reading some Dennis Lehane. For those of you who aren’t too sure of who he is, go and watch Mystic River, or Shutter Island, or Gone, Baby, Gone, or even the episodes of The Wire that he penned. Then come back to me.

 

I’ve read some of his stuff before, but only the main ones, the books of the afore-mentioned movies, and now I decided to start from the beginning. If anyone isn’t familiar with his writing style, it’s basically modern noir, based in Boston, with a heavy concentration on character development and plot substance. You’ll find very few throwaway characters or filler chapters here!

 

It’s the setting that I want to concentrate on here though. Lehane is a Bostonian, and this is clear to see once you pick up one of his novels, especially any of the Kenzie-Gennaro series, where the Massachusetts capital is described in such intricacies that I can’t help but feel driven towards it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve read books that have described their settings minutely before; Shakespeare and Dickens classics depict London like little other literature, and Steig Larsson must have single-handedly improved Sweden’s tourism industry ten-fold. Even authors like Zadie Smith, who sets some of her novels in and around the area I was born, and Malcolm Pryce, the author behind the seedy underbelly of a Druid-ruled sleepy town in West Wales, do not describe their setting quite like Lehane.

 

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Up by Jawbone

This might shock some of you to hear this, but I am not a fitness person! I don’t jog, I don’t cycle, I don’t swim, I eat bad stuff and I drink, a lot. However, recently I took it upon myself to fix this. I’ve tried diets, and they don’t work. I don’t stay on them long enough, and they’re not fun. I was trying to work out how I can get fit whilst not changing my habits massively, because I know I won’t stick to them. So I decided on the gym. 

 

Whilst the gym is alright, I go a couple of times a week, it had me thinking whether I could increase what exercise I do outside of the gym; walking to work and so on. Through this research, I came across Up by Jawbone. 

Up is a rubber wristband available in three different sizes, and comes with an app, either for iPhone or Android, which records all of your data. This is processed through a data connection, which sits on one end of the band, where there’s a 3.5mm jack, which is how you connect it to your phone, as well as charging, through a computer. The other end has a button, which turns the band on and off, as well as switching it to day or night mode, which is signalled by either a sun or a moon on the band. 

 

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Up 

Now, a lot of criticism of this has been ‘yeah but it’s just a pedometer’ whereas it’s quite a lot more than that. Yes, it does measure your steps, but it will also break down your steps, telling you when you were walking a lot, and when you weren’t. It also sets you a goal, in terms of steps (mine is 12,000 a day) and will tell you how far away from completing it you are, as well as what you could do to complete it if you’re not. 

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Steps per day

One of the most useful features, for me at least, is the Idle Alert, which is where the wristband will vibrate if you’ve stood still for anything between 15 minutes and 2 hours, and you can set it to different times of the day and only on different days, which helps productivity no end. 

 

Where Up is helping me the most is in the sleep measurement. I’m a very poor sleeper, and probably have some sort of insomnia, but Up is useful as it measures how I sleep, and tells me when I am in deep sleep, light sleep and awake.

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Sleep monitoring

It will also wake me up at the time I choose, through something called Smart Sleep Alerts, which starts waking me, through vibrations, from up to half an hour before my alarm, dependent on whether I’m in deep or light sleep

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The app is quite intuitive, as not only will it show all of the above, it also has social media aspects, where you can view the stats of your friends who also have the app, as well as pulling data from other fitness apps that you have, for example, whilst the app itself doesn’t have GPS capabilities, it does pull data from MapMyFitness, which does. Other apps that do this include MyFitnessPal, RynKeeper, GymPact, Sleepio and Notch. 

Image Apps that link with Up

 

Up by Jawbone retails at £99.99

 

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jawbone-Medium-Fitness-Tracking-Wristband/dp/B00BQ9DOXE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375292503&sr=8-1&keywords=up+wristband

 

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Self Service

Now I could write for hours and hours and HOURS on how people’s stupidity fucks me right off. But I’m gonna try and keep this short – no one wants an essay! But something that really pisses me off is self service machines in supermarkets.

Well that’s not strictly true…I think they’re great. They mean that for misanthropic bastards such as myself, I don’t have to deal with the inane bullshit that cashiers spew out. There is nothing in my demeanour that suggest that I give a shit about what you have to say or how your day has been, nor do I want to tell you how mine has been. Don’t ask! Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been in their shoes, I’ve worked supermarket tills, it’s not in the job description to be fucking nauseating.

Anyway, I digress, it’s not self service tills that piss me off, it’s the fucking idiots that can’t use them. And it’s not just old people either (that’s a whole other story) but anyone who can’t use the things. It’s not difficult. Most of them have a fucking step-by-step video on what to do.

But, and it’s a big but, if you’re physically and mentally incapable of using them, if the video is far too taxing to understand, then don’t worry, there is a solution. As the vast majority of shops that have self-service also still have cashiers available. So ignore the self-service tills. DON’T. FUCKING. USE. THEM.

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Polemics 101

Anyone ever wake up and get the feeling that they just wanna do something new? Maybe change the way you do something. Maybe change the way you are. Maybe just change the way you are around people.

I’ve had that a few times lately and, well, I just thought fuck it, why not.

A friend of mine was talking to me recently, and he suggested I become a polemicist. Now I didn’t know what one of those was, strictly speaking. I’d heard the word thrown around a few times, but when he described it as ‘someone who’s pissed off all the time’ it pretty much describes me down to a T.

So here we go. Those of you who know me will know that I swear. I swear a lot. The ‘fuck’ in the above paragraph exemplifies this. Now I don’t swear because I think it’s cool. I don’t swear to impress people. I don’t swear because I’m Irish, despite what I might tell people. And I sure as shit don’t swear because I can’t articulate myself properly without cursing. If anything it heightens my articulation. Stephen Fry once said that the people he knows who swear the most ‘tend to have the widest vocabulary and the kind of person who says swearing is a sign of a poor vocabulary usually have a pretty poor vocabulary themselves’.

No, I swear because I can.

That being said, I understand that swearing, or at least my level of it, is not to everyone’s liking, so if it’s going to upset you, stop reading now…

If you’re still reading, what you should have learnt from the above micro-essay is that this is gonna be a swear-filled rant on how so many many things piss me off in the world…SO MANY.

This won’t portray me in a good light. I’m going to come off as a sanctimonious prick. But most people know me, and know I’m a sanctimonious prick anyway, so no harm done.

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An apology. And some films

So….it’s been a bit of a long time since I last blogged. I won’t try and excuse it by saying I’ve been busy (I haven’t) or that I haven’t had time (I have really), all I’ll try and do is blog even more than before now.

Anyway, the arrival of my Empire magazine through the post this morning made me realise what a potentially fantastic year this is going to be for films. So far we’ve had The Iron Lady, War Horse, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Muppets, Young Adult, The Woman in Black, This Means War, Hunger Games, 21 Jump Street, Safe House, Underworld: Awakening and about 50 others that I’ve not mentioned. I’ve only seen a handful of the above films, including This Means War, Woman in Black, Safe House and 21 Jump Street, all four of which I really enjoyed. I’ve also seen a couple of really bad films this year, including Ghost Rider 2. And Underworld: Awakening. Which was ok.

What’s more important though, is what’s to come:

The Dictator (Released 18th May 2012 in UK)

Sacha Baron Cohen? Check. Larry David, his director in Bruno and Borat, as well as Mr Curb Your Enthusiasm? Check. Hilarious PR stunts, including Cohen nearly barred from the Oscars, and throwing ash all over Ryan Seacrest? Check. An awesome supporting cast, including Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, John C Reilly, and [less so] Megan Fox? Check. All in all this film looks like it could be incredibly funny. Could be famous last words, but I can’t see it going wrong…

The Bourne Legacy (17th August 2012)

When I heard that there was going to be a Bourne film without Jason Bourne/Matt Damon, I was immediately very sceptical. But I then heard that his shoes were to be filled by Jeremy Renner (seen in, amongst others, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, The Hurt Locker, The Town, and another of this year’s blockbuster movies..) and my ears pricked up. Then Ed Norton was cast as the bad guy antagonist and I decided that I had to see this film. It should be good.

The Amazing Spider-Man (4th July 2012)

When I first saw them, I hated parts 2 and 3 of the Sam Raimi Spiderman trilogy. Having rewatched them very recently, I realised that I was wrong about them. I was too harsh on Spiderman 2, it’s actually a very good superhero sequel, which is a rarity shared by very few films, The Dark Knight excluded, and the critics were too harsh on Spiderman 3. Sure, there were too many antagonists, and the dancing scene was horrible, but on the whole, it was still enjoyable, and a damn sight better than Superman Returns. But anyway, Andrew Garfield should play Peter Parker very well, and judging by the trailers, the sarcastic humour of the comics is back. I absolutely love Emma Stone, I think she’s amazing, in everything she does, even the otherwise disappointing House Bunny. And Marc Webb is an excellent director. Anyone who hasn’t seen 500 Days of Summer, shame on you. With Rhys Ifans in apparently fine form as The Lizard, this should be a good summer blockbuster, albeit shadowed by another two superhero movies…

The Dark Knight Rises (20th July 2012)

Anything I write about this movie will detract from how awesome it will undoubtedly be. The second sequel (threequel??) to two fantastic movies, the first a brilliant scene-setter, the second arguably the perfect superhero movie, the cast alone means that this film will be the film of the year. But everyone has known that for years.

Skyfall (26th October 2012)

I liked Quantum of Solace, but I’ve accepted that I was very much in a minority. I’m glad to see Daniel Craig still as Bond, and Sam Mendes should do a good job of keeping him grounded, not allowing the new Bond to lift to the lofty heights of invisible hands, as seen in the end of the Brosnan era. A supporting cast including the always-excellent Ralph Fiennes, Javier Bardem, Bond ever-present of late Judi Dench, Naomie Harris, and making the character’s return to the series as Q, Ben Whishaw, means that this film will do well in the Autumn release slot.

Brave (17th August 2012)

I saw the trailer, and it doesn’t interest me, I’m going to be honest, but it will probably do well as it’s Pixar, and they usually do well (Cars notwithstanding) and the 3d element should do well for the family element.

The Hobbit (14th December 2012)

I. Am. So. Excited. For. This Film.

Django Unchained (18th January 2013) I cheated by 18 days

I’m pretty sure that most people like Quentin Tarantino. Some people like him a lot. I love him. I’ve not seen a QT film that I didn’t really like, which includes his ‘flop’ Death Proof, and I don’t think that Django Unchained will change that. The plot surrounds a bounty hunter trying to rescue his wife, and the cast is typically brilliant, given that it’s QT. Samuel L Jackson is here (no one’s surprised), Christoph Waltz (he was brilliant in Inglourious) Jamie Foxx (he’s needed a big role for a while) and Kurt Russell (see Death Proof) are all part of the film, as are Joseph Gordon-Levitt (surprising role choice for him, but it seems that he’s branching out from indy-rom-coms) and Leonardo Di Caprio (leading role, just because he’s great) but the most surprising choice, for me at least, is Sacha Baron Cohen, but I don’t think it will be a bad choice.

Prometheus (1st June 2012)

James Cameron film, set in Alien world, possibly/probably a prequel. Great cast, including Noomi Rapace, Scarlett Johansson, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba and Michael Fassbender. There hasn’t been this much hype about a sci-fi film in a long time. Not much to say that hasn’t already been said. Anyone wants to know more, I’ll point you in the direction of someone much more versed in the Alien world than I.

There’s a whole host of other films that I’m not writing around coz I’m not that bothered (Snow White and the Huntsman, Men in Black 3, Battleship, GI: Joe: Retaliation, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, Dredd, Total Recall) or that I didn’t have time to, but am interested in (Expendables 2, Paranormal Activity 4, Taken 2, Resident Evil: Retirbution, 47 Ronin (not really…haha))

And that’s it. Thought I’d get back to blogging, as it’s been a while, and just document my thoughts on what an amazing year for films this is going to be.

Thanks for reading (if you did)

Matt

Wait…I forgot something…

Avengers Assemble (26th April 2012)

Do I really need to say anything?? Just watch the trailer. Then watch it again. When you’ve seen it twice, leave it an hour, and watch it again. Then wait til April 26th (4 week today, by my reckoning) and cry with excitement.

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Empire Big Screen

Last weekend was a bit of a mad one for me. I had a wedding reception to attend on Friday, which went quite well, and it was then that a friend dropped a bombshell on me: he was attending Empire Big Screen, the 3-day annual event where they hold film premieres, secret screenings, Q+A’s with the stars and much more, as press the next day, and had a +1. Of course I bit his hand off at this opportunity, as any of you who know me will know that I’m a little bit obsessed with films.

 

Saturday comes around, I have a gargantuan hangover and have only slept for about 4 hours, but still, we make our way over to the O2, nee Millennium Dome, in Greenwich, to see what the metaphorical craic is. We make our way in, (the one thing I don’t like about the O2 is that they search you with a big metal detector, your bag goes through one as well, it’s like being at an airport. I completely understand why they do it, but it still annoys me) and make our way to the press office to collect our press passes.

 

The first thing we see once we’ve signed in, is a Q+A session with Roland Emmerich, director of, amongst other movies, 2012, The Day After Tomorrow and Independence Day! He wasn’t there to discuss those though, he was talking about his new film, Anonymous, which deals with the conspiracy theories that Shakespeare was not who he said he was, again, one of my favourite topics of discussion, so the film looks great, even if the Bard himself is being played by Rafe Spall, who I only know as Noel, the ‘you’ve got red on you’ guy from the Richer Sounds piss-take in Shaun of the Dead, and the Andy who wasn’t Paddy Considine from Hot Fuzz. To be honest, I can’t see how he’s anything like Shakespeare. But we’ll see!

 

Anyway, I digress, back to the Big Screen. After that we wandered round for a bit, I picked up a 12-month subscription of Empire for £20 (bargain!) and we were then offered a free screening of Troll Hunter, a film that I’d never heard about, but I am reliably informed, by both a Norwegian friend of mine, and the director and lead who had a Q+A before and after the film, that this is a Norwegian cult classic. I won’t go into much details about the film here, saving that for a later post, but let me just say that it’s pretty damn good!

 

We leave Troll Hunter happy, and are a bit bemused about what to do next. It’s getting late, and we thought that everything had finished. Oh how wrong we were, as we found out that there was a UK premiere of Cowboys and Aliens an hour away, and our passes would get us in for free! Again, Cowboys and Aliens will be dealt with in time, but let me just say that this is a proper summer blockbuster, and not to be missed!

 

Sunday wasn’t quite as eventful, mainly as we turned up super-late, meaning we missed, amongst other things, Q+A’s with Terry Giliam, Gareth Edwards (a name most of you won’t recognise, but if you have a chance, see his film Monsters, it’s great! He’s also directing the new Godzilla, which should be amazing,) a piece on how to become a screenwriter, a screening of The Guard, which is meant to be hilarious, and the premiere of Conan in 3D. Now whilst I’m genuinely gutted about missing all of them, we saw the final screening, which was the big one: the UK premiere of Fright Night, hosted by David Tennant. Again, check back here soon for my thoughts on the film itself, but I really enjoyed it. It felt like it should be a Vincent Price movie, even though it’s nearly 20 years after his last film/death. Guess that shows how much of an impact he’s had on horror films.

 

Anyway, all in all, Empire Big Screen was a great success, I really enjoyed myself, and recommend it to everyone next year!

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The Dark Knight Rises

I’m gonna start this piece with a statement that it’s taken me quite some time to admit to…I don’t see what all the fuss is about The Dark Knight. I didn’t think it was that good…

Nah, I’m just fucking with you!

The Dark Knight is actually one of my favourite films. Now I know that everyone says that, and that it’s a film that is pretty much universally loved. But when I say it’s one of my favourite films, I’m talking top 10. Top 10 films is really difficult with me, and I have to break it down into categories, Top 10 Drama films, Comedy films, Arnie films etc, but I can honestly say that Dark Knight is top 10, if not top 5, of overall films.

I can’t even put my finger on why I loved it as much as I did. I just thought it was perfect. Maybe it’s that one of my favourite actors, the criminally underused William Fichtner, is in it, even if for a ricidulously short amount of time. Any fans of his should definitely check out Drive Angry by the way, not a great film, but his performance is fantastic. Or maybe it’s that I have always, always had a thing for Maggie Gyllenhaal, telling people how beautiful she was from way back when, I’m talking Donnie Darko times, and in this film, she’s great Especially considering she replaces the travesty that is Katie Holmes. Or maybe it’s just that Christopher Nolan is a genius.

Anyway, the point of this is, that The Dark Knight Rises, the sequel to the Dark Knight, and the last remaining part of the trilogy before Batman is no doubt rebooted again, is coming out soon (I say soon, it’s pretty much a calendar year before it’s released…) and recently the first poster, and more importantly, first teaser trailer, have come out. All that the poster shows is Gotham, crumbling, from an amazing Inception-style worm’s eye view, and the trailer shows us that, well, it all ends here.

There’s a lot of stock footage reused from the earlier films, primarily Batman Begins, but Nolan uses the footage so well that you can barely tell it’s old stuff. The new footage is mainly just the absolutely fantastic Gary Oldman in a hospital bed, breathing through an oxygen mask, narrating the trailer, and a split-second view of Tom Hardy, who looks fucking unreal as Bane, if you’ll excuse my French.

Although it’s only a short trailer, just over 90 seconds in length, it tells us a lot about the film, and mainly how fantastic it’s going to be. And yet so much stuff is yet to be discussed. Is Ra’s Al Ghul returning? (I hope so, I’m a huge Liam Neeson fan!) And what of the new characters? Hollywood’s new star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, a Gotham cop with a point to prove, if we believe what we’re told. Anne Hathaway, always stunning, as Selina Kyle, also known as Catwoman. Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard as Miranda Tate. And the returning favourites, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Lost alumnus Nestor Carbonell, reprising his role as the Mayor of Gotham, are all fantastic actors.

All in all, I absolutely can’t wait for this film. There’s great films coming out between now and then, but I don’t think any of them will compare to this. I can’t wait. And hopefully, if you’re still reading by this point, neither can you. If you are still reading this, sorry about the length! Oh and the cursing.

 

EDIT: I knew there was something I forgot! The poster and trailer links!

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