Six Hundred Horsepower…And Leaf Springs…Are You Mad? – Love The Beast

9 03 2016

Love The Beast (Eric Bana - 2009)

I love cars. Cars are one of my big interests in my life along with other interests such as Writing, Films, Godzilla, Board Games, Cooking, Music, TV, Video Games, Technology, Trains, Dinosaurs, and Buildings. OK, so I do have a lot of other interests too that include but are not limited to the things I have just mentioned. But, I genuinely like cars. Yes, it’s been tough since the loss of Top Gear, but as a car fan I have still managed to keep up my love for the things. I may not be able to drive (yet), but I always have a keen eye out for cars when I see them out on the street (and wish I had my camera with me). I even have my fantasy car collection that includes cars produced by companies such as Lamborghini, Pagani and Jaguar (cars which I hope to drive one day providing I can get somewhere with my writing career). So with a love of Cars and Movie’s, you may think that I must love it when the two come together? Well Cars and Video Games yes, Cars and Movies though is something I have not tried until I saw Love The Beast.

LTB2

Released in 2009 and Directed by Eric Bana; Love The Beast is a documentary-film (or docu-film if you prefer) about the love affair Hollywood star Eric Bana has for his first car; a Ford XB Falcon Hardtop, which he’s named ‘The Beast’. My own personal knowledge of this film ends before I saw it. I first heard about it on an episode of Top Gear where Eric Bana was the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car. After that I did not really look into it. But then, after I started working in Barnardo’s; I found a copy of it on the shelves. After a few months passed, I finally got it out of curiosity and thought I would give it a go; which I did.

Eric Bana

Love the Beast begins with Eric Bana talking about his youth, and especially about watching Australian Motor Racing. He remembers seeing something taking place at the Bathurst motor race involving a couple of Ford Falcon’s. From that moment on he was in love with that kind of car. So much so that when he was about 15, he persuaded his Dad to buy one for him. Over the next several years, Bana and his friends work long periods to bring the car back to its original glory. Eventually, Bana and his friends enter the Falcon into the Targa Tasmania: a motor race that funnily enough happened to take place in Tasmania. Hoping to enter every year from his first appearance in 1996, fate gets the better of Bana and he becomes an international Hollywood star.

LTB1

11 Years after his first Targa, Bana decides to enter his Falcon into the 2007 race, after rebuilding his Falcon yet again. He enters with some childhood friends, one of them being his navigator. At first they struggle with the newly built vehicle, but soon they manage to pick up the pace. Things eventually lead to tragedy however, as on the 4th race of the 5 day event, they crash into a tree. Though a little shaken up, Bana has to leave the race and get back to his day job, by attending a New York movie premier and appearing on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno. Upon returning to Australia, he gets to have a proper look at his badly damaged vehicle. From then on it becomes a question as where to go with it next, eventually ending with him covering it up in a sheet in his garage. The film then ends with the suggestion that he will one day return to it and fix it again.

Love the Beast is a film I find hard to really review, this could be though do it being a Documentary film rather than a fictional piece of work, a genre I have only done one other film review before. I suppose, a great place to start would be to talk about what it is. Love The Beast is a film about cars, a documentary about cars specifically. It is a film about a man’s desire to enter a car he loves into a motor race. Now if this was an ordinary man no-one had ever heard of before, it would be a different story. In this instance however it is actor Eric Bana whose movie output includes the film’s Troy and Hulk. In this case it is quite different, as it becomes a film not where he is playing a character, but more one where he is talking about his social and personal life. From the outset, the film talks about his growing up and what part of his young life the car meant to him. The film then goes in the various directions a documentary would go to cover all of its bases. It goes into talking about the Targa Tasmania, the Falcon and its appearance in the original Mad Max; it then goes into talking about Bana’s father’s love affair with his own Ford Thunderbolt. Then in the background of the film, there is a host of interviews of Car Enthusiasts and celebrities including Jeremy Clarkson, Jay Leno and Dr. Phil McGraw. It then talks about the Targa in more detail and includes the style of cars used in the race series and the difference between new super cars, and old muscle classics. It is a film that is definitely about cars and man’s love affair with them. Not in the form of them as tools driven by people who consider them nothing more as tins on wheels, but as symbols that mean something to people growing up and how they become a metaphorical camp fire for people now grown up and how they still need these symbols in order to be themselves.

Mad Max (Village Roadshow Pictures - 1979)

That is what the film is trying to present, well aims to achieve, because on the whole it has a lot of issues. Love The Beast has narration off-screen frequently throughout, but from the start this comes with a level of near boredom. Bana himself I felt is not all that good a narrator, or at least not yet. As he spoke from the beginning away from the camera, it was like he was reading from a pre-prepared script written by someone else. It was not like he was telling a story, nor like he was informing the audience about his past experience. When he is in front of the camera, being in the scene and talking normally/casually with everyone else, his soul and passion for what he loves comes out to the full, but as a voice over it is not really all that believable and can be pretty boring. Bana presents himself as a more straight-up kind of guy; but the way he narrates this neither suggests nor promotes his love and interest for his car.

Ford XB Falcon Hardtop 2

When I first started to watch this film I was constantly near blacking out, like there was not much going on. I like cars, love them in fact. Before lasts years consequences ended it for good; Top Gear was my Favourite show. My Favourite car for many years now has been the Pagani Zonda F. I like cars, but this, a film about cars, is something I am finding hard to like in the least bit. It’s a real case of the Marmite belief. Marmite, some kind of ingredient/spread that you can do edible stuff with has always had the moniker of either you love it or hate it. Well, Love The Beast is something like that, and I myself am not too sure on where I personally stand with it. As a film, it’s more of an informative piece. Something you would watch on an afternoon if there was nothing good on tele, not on a Friday or Saturday evening.

But then, when you reach the 40/50 minutes in marker everything changes. It goes from a half attempted documentary on entering a racing series to an understanding of what this car means to Bana. It’s a different yet interesting point of view of a well-known person in the public light. Instead of gossiping on every element of his personal life with subjects like food, weight, clothes, relationships and all the other garbage gossip; Love The Beast becomes a deep and moving insight into a true passion of his, his car. Up till now it has been a basic documentary with nothing much really to focus on. No theme for the documentary to follow or look into specifically, but then as it finally begins to gain pace, we discover that for Bana, the car is less a tin on wheels tool/contraption for the masses; but an icon of his youth and an important part of his history. It provides him with personal drive (pun not intended). This passion ultimately leads however to tragedy, as while everything was going well at first; in a heartbeat it ends in a collision which brings the star to a halt as fast as the crash itself. At first I thought this sounded like it was planned, but to this though comes the films real story and eventual meaning.

LTB3

The film, the events, the interviews; it’s not about Bana learning about the car or its place in automotive history, nor is it about a man entering a race in the hope of achieving sporting glory. You realise that all along from the beginning, that what it’s all really been about is this titan of Hollywood coming to terms with the crash and the damage sustained to his beloved Ford XB Falcon Hardtop. Something that is more of a childhood friend severely injured/disfigured rather than it simply being a gash to a tin with wheels on it. From the moment he sees it in proper in a garage, it changes him, and he goes and talks to the celebrities to talk to them and ask them for some form of guidance or hoping that they may shed light on what has happened and why it has happened. For Bana, it’s less a documentary or film, it’s actually therapy. This is the moment where the film goes from its original aim to a personal struggle. This is true reality and one that is felt deeply. Love The Beast’s true meaning therefore is one of how much symbols and icon’s mean to us personally in our lives from a young age and how these things can hurt when they take a hit…..no matter how old we are.

Ford XB Falcon Hardtop

Ok, I can see I may have gone off track (pun not intended again) with this film as a whole, but in effect, that’s what this film is about, one man’s passion for his car and what it means to him. Now that is not to say the film did not have its issues, but from these issues comes a film (in a similar style to the BMW M5 review on Top Gear) that provides something different. I like documentary films. I really do, and while this one did struggle to begin with from this mediocre/weak start; it became a really passionate story. Add to this the inclusion of top car personalities like Clarkson in particular, and you get this really interesting creation. Yes, there are better things to watch on a Friday and Saturday night slumped in front of the TV, but if you love cars as much as me, and carry a passion for the true monsters of automotive design and engineering; then you will want to see this film.

GENEPOOL





Random Alphabet Animal Quiz – Answers

2 03 2016

Random Alphabet Quiz 4

Last week, I posted up a quick animal themed quiz. Well now less than a week later the answers are available for you. How many did you get right? Feel free to brag your animal knowledge to your friends by posting on social media (and in the comments if you want to). Anyway, hope you liked it, just fancied doing something different with these quizzes for a change.

  1. What is the common name for the mammal species Vermilingua? = Anteater
  2. What animal is the Pokémon Butterfree based on? = Butterfly
  3. A species of Dinosaur named after Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton? = Crichtonsaurus
  4. An Akita is a large breed of what animal? = Dog
  5. A Jellied Animal that is a popular English dish in the east end of London? = Eels
  6. The Beatrix Potter character Jeremy Fisher was this kind of Animal? = Frog
  7. A large species of Shark, known for being in the book and film Jaws? = Great White Shark
  8. A large species of Amphibious Mammal that is known for being rather volatile despite being a vegetarian? = Hippopotamus
  9. A long-legged wading bird of which there is 28 extant and 2 extinct species of? = Ibis
  10. What breed of big cat is also the name of a prominent UK car manufacturer? = Jaguar
  11. A species of large lizard found on 5 Indonesian Islands? = Komodo Dragon
  12. What species of primate sometimes has rings on its tail? = Lemur
  13. It appears in a series of annoying adverts where it markets soft toys of itself? = Meerkat
  14. A species of whale that possesses a fearsome looking tusk? = Narwhal
  15. What species of animal has Zebra pattern like Legs but is more closely related to Giraffes? = Okapi
  16. A black furred species of Big Cat which is closely associated with the legend of the Beast of Bodmin? = Panther
  17. The name of an extinct subspecies of Zebra? = Quagga
  18. The star animal characters featured in the Studio Ghibli film Pom Poko? = Racoon
  19. An animal known for having a Sting in the tail? = Scorpion
  20. The Looney Toons character Taz is one of these? = Tasmanian Devil
  21. A species of Japanese bird whose guano is used in face creams? = Uguisu
  22. A species of scavenging bird of prey of which there are 30 species worldwide? = Vulture
  23. What large species of marine mammal are recognisable for having two large tusks protruding from its mouth? = Walrus
  24. What animal is commonly sued name for the animal known as Pristella Maxillaris? = X-ray Fish or X-ray Tetra
  25. What animal is involved in a skiing based attraction in the Indian Hill resort of Manali? = Yak
  26. What species of Shark share its name with a species of African Equids? = Zebra Shark

GENEPOOL





Capturing A Snow Leopard……….On Camera

24 06 2015

Snow Leopard

A few weeks ago, me and my Mam had a day out at the South Lakes Wild Animal Park (or South Lakes Safari Zoo as it is now known) in Dalton-in-Furness. It’s not the first time we have gone there; we’ve visited it a lot with family and friends for roughly over 10 years now. It is a brilliant place that has different species of animals on show and even has some breeds live in the same enclosures. One of the key stand out features of the zoo though is its feeding times. On several occasions I have seen the animal talks and feedings and once hand fed a Lemur.

Racoon

The star attraction of feeding time is quite possibly the big cats. Animals like African Lions, Sumatran Tigers, Jaguars and many more get fed in a rather interesting way; by placing big chunks of meat atop large vertical poles. The idea is that when the animals are let out of their houses, they climb up the poles to get the food, meaning that they have to work for it, and helps to keep them fit. Over the last few years the park itself has been in a state of expansion with new areas and enclosures being built, with plans to introduce new species. This past visit, I was mostly caught up in looking at the new species with animals I had not seen before like the Giant Anteater, Sri Lankan Leopards, Arctic Wolves, Hornbills and (very briefly) Tayras.

Hornbill

One of the exhibits I took a shine to though was the Snow Leopards. The Snow Leopards aren’t really all that new; the last time I went to the zoo in July 2013 they had just arrived, but this was the first time that I had really seen them active instead of asleep. They were residing in the enclosure that the Lion’s used to occupy (the Lions now having a brand new enclosure). The enclosure was more of a rocky environment than one of grass and trees like it used to be. When we arrived at the enclosure, we were able to spot one of the Snow Leopards rather quickly, and as we went round onto the viewing platform to look down inside the enclosure (and opposite to the Arctic Wolf enclosure) we could spot another one, nicely blending into the rocks.

2 Snow Leopards

As the day went past, we looked at some of the other animals and enclosures, but discovered that due to the new species and ever-growing zoo, that feeding times for animals had been moved around. Wanting to watch the Arctic Wolf feeding (as we had never seen it before), we went down to the enclosure to watch, but it turns out they weren’t feeding them on that day (despite being given a leaflet which said that they were). What they were feeding though were the Snow Leopards. It wasn’t anything new really, other than it being a new species, it was the same routine as with the Lions and Tigers; shimmy up the pole. There was a lot of people round so getting a view was hard, but I was able to see them climb the pole and eat the food.

Snow Leopard Eating

I then had an idea. As it was, the animals were given two servings of food, and so I thought that if I could wait around a bit, I could potentially capture a video of the Snow Leopards climbing up the fence. My camera does come with a basic recording feature, so I set the camera to it and waited. The thing was, the animals were eating rather chewy bits of meat and did take some time to eat their meals. So while I waited, I occasionally glimpsed at the Arctic Wolves and marvelled at how bushy the Snow Leopard’s tails were.

Arctic Wolf

Sometime later though, not too long though, the cats decided they had had enough of their first servings, and proceeded to have their seconds. I quickly got my camera ready and was just able to get a video of them climbing up the poles, grabbing the food, then jumping off and begin to munch away. I was quite relieved as I wondered if I was actually going to get it. When we got back home, after uploading my photos onto Facebook, I then uploaded my video to YouTube, and it came out quite well. In the past I have been able to get pictures of the big cats eating, but I think this is the first time I got a video. I now just need to do it for all the other big cats (and possibly the other animals too).

GENEPOOL





Top 5 Top Gear Specials

31 12 2013

It is Christmas time once again (Yes I Know It Was Last Week), and it is the year for terrible TV. It is no mystery that TV at Christmas is bad. There may be a Doctor Who Special for Christmas, but given what those specials have been like since that Cybermen one (or that boring one with the fish), I might not bother. There are of course some Films to be watched, but given this time of year it is usually a good idea to avoid any films related to Christmas (so avoid Movies 24 (or Christmas 24 as it is known this time of year) in that case).

While most of TV is bound to be bad, let us not forget that there is one show that says ‘NO’ to bad TV at Christmas; Top Gear. For the last few years they have produced a wide and enjoyable selection of specials where the trio travel to a different country and look around and get up to some funny japes in a bunch of cars. So in celebration to these great men, here are my Top 5 Top Gear Specials.

Top Gear Botswana Special

5. Botswana Special – The Botswana special set up the core format for how all the future specials would turn out. While there had been previous specials, this one did the opposite of going somewhere other than America. It starts off nice and simple with the trio showing off the cars they bought (which were not allowed to off-road vehicles) and start the journey off with James May accidently driving into Zimbabwe. Over the course of the episode Richard Hammond grows rather fond of his Opel Cadet (even naming it Oliver) and becomes a bit too overly attached with it. One of the shows main points saw them driving through the Makgadikgadi Pan with some heavy modifications to Jeremy’s Lancia Beta Coupe and James’s Mercedes-Benz 230E. Another point of the show was that of the trio driving through the Okavango Delta, after modifying their cars again. Throughout the whole program all three cars had major (but also very funny) problems and were also followed round what would be a standard for all future specials, the backup car, in this case The VW Beetle.

Top Gear Vietnam Special

4. Vietnam Special – A very interesting episode as well as entertaining. The show began with them getting a lot of money to buy wheels, but discovered that despite having 15 Million Dong (The Vietnam Currency), it was not enough to buy wheels with, until they realized they could, but the form they did get, did not please Jeremy all that much, they bought bikes. This is an episode that I think about every now and again. I am not fond of Bikes also, and I try to think about what I would do in that position.  The early stages of the episode sees Jeremy struggle greatly with Richard and James drive off and not see him again until lunch and supper of the first day. As the episode progresses, they buy suits, buy ridiculous presents over and over again, fail a driving test, paint Richard’s bike pink, catch a train and turn their bikes into jet skis. They are also followed by a backup bike, but on this occasion it is not a great idea because it has an American Flag and American Flag decor and plays the Bruce Springsteen classic ‘Born in the U.S.A.’, not a great idea to do while in Vietnam. One of the more enjoyable bits though is when they go in search of their cars and discover how hard it was going to be and what they would go through in the hope of buying a car. But despite all the comedy and silliness involved, the whole episode is overshadowed by the Amazing country that it is set in. The shots of the cities, countryside as well as the weather is incredible to watch.

Bolivia

3. Bolivia Special – Simple plan initially, buy 3 off-road vehicles and travel to the Pacific Ocean, the start point however is in the middle of a jungle. The Bolivia Special has one if not the best opening for a top gear special. It initially starts out with the trio waiting for their vehicles, point out everything that is wrong with the vehicles and then try to get them off a raft. Jeremy goes for a Range Rover which is consistently referenced as the most unreliable car in the world, which throughout the episode turns out to be the most reliable car of the three. James buys a Suzuki SJ413 which was apparently blue in the catalogue he ordered it from, but turned out to be red. Richard meanwhile lands for a Toyota Land Cruiser which in the end does not make it. Much like the Vietnam special, part of this episode features an interesting country as well as journey which starts in the jungle and ends up in a desert where there is no life at all. The jungle section is really good and even as that part goes, the episode does not let up, even when driving on the most dangerous road in the world on one of the highest roads in the world to the eventual end of driving the two remaining cars down some dunes. The trios experience through these points is brilliant also such as how much they suffered at high altitudes, and Hammond’s experience at taking caramelized drugs. Very enjoyable and memorable episode, definitely a highlight for the show.

Africa

2. Africa Special – The first Two Part special, the trio go in search of the true source of the River Nile. Travelling in Estate cars, the trio are trying to be explorers to look for the real source of the river Nile, something that has been queried and argued for a long time (apparently). The episodes start off as normal but as the first episode goes on, they discover more and more of the country and for a time it turns in similar fashion to the Vietnam Special. As it progresses they boys modify their cars to sleep inside them instead of Richard’s Favourite past time and drive through a town named Jezza. As it becomes clear they have been going in the wrong direction, and become rather despondent, they go in a different direction which leads to them sailing across Lake Victoria in a short, but rather interesting few moments which leads to Hammond losing a lot of food from his car, even though he can only cook baked beans. In the second episode they get closer to their destination, after stealing bits and bobs off each other’s cars they build a car ferry to get across a river. They then arrive on a very perilous road which causes them nothing but problems before a mad dash finish to find the source which James does. While these Episodes are great, I do feel like the second episode lets the first one down, especially with the whole car ferry moment, if that was shorter, and had more stuff on where they were as well as what they got up to, it would be number 1. But I do wait with much anticipation towards any future double episodes, it works, it really does.

India

1. India Special – The India Special had it all, Good Cars, Great Challenges, Silly Incidents and an Amazing Country. Thinking it would be a great idea to get some trade going for the UK by visiting India, the trio go there on a trade mission in a Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow, Jaguar XJS and Mini Cooper. They try to use their cars in a way that might be able to get India to trade with England such as delivering hot food instead of the train, hosting Motorsport and decorating them in an Indian way including a painted flag that is not Indian. The trio do other things also such as putting banners on the side of trains which in the end leave rude messages, host a trade reception which ends with an accident with a homemade firework as well as a runaway Lawn Mower. The trio also improve a couple of British Made products also by making a far better version of the pointless Paul McCartney Song ‘Hey Jude’ and greatly improve the most boring sport in the world; Cricket. The episode is also filled with funny incidents including James taking revenge on Jeremy and Richard for messing with his car, and repeated fun at Richard’s expense by playing a Genesis song over and over again. Much like the Vietnam episode also, it is a great representation of an amazing country and culture revealed as the show goes on. Even after the great African Special, this remains my Favourite Top Gear Special.

GENEPOOL








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