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Whew, what a monster...
I'm no average woman and I don't have an average woman's interests. In this blog I hope to share my interests with the readers, so expect posts about society, computer games, literature, movies and TV ... and a few others, probably.
A prosperous London barber in the days when men were compelled regularly to bare their throats to be shaved by comparative (and often disreputable-looking) strangers, Todd routinely murders the unsuspecting patrons of his Fleet Street 'tonsorial parlour'.
from the introduction to "Sweeney Todd. The Demon Barber of Fleet Street"
If you follow this blog regularly - or at least have for the last couple of weeks - you already know I was waiting impatiently for the new Tim Burton movie "Sweeney Todd". Yesterday I went to the movies to see it - and I had not waited in vain.
I already had a basic idea of what to expect from the movie - after all, I did also read a reprint of the original penny dreadful that features the story of the "Demon Barber of Fleet Street" this weekend. But between 'what I expect' and 'what I really get' there can be quite some differences. In the case of this movie, the reality exceeded my expectations.
Of course, given the story and the director, I expected quite some bloodshed - which I got. But there's many ways to shed blood, from crude to quite artistically (that might sound a bit odd, but if you've watched as many horror b-movies as I have, you know how to spot the difference). There are many ways to show how people die, even if the method always remains the same. Burton makes good use of this fact, without stepping over the bounds from 'still mostly scary, though dripping with blood' to 'outright gross'. And in a world predominated by colours like black, dark browns, shades of grey and dirty whites and yellows, the vivid red of the victims' blood stands out even more clearly.
But, as good as the story - and Sondheim's music - are by their own rights, a movie also lives through the talents and abilities of the actors. And all actors appearing on screen more than once show the right abilities for the characters they're playing.
The tragic 'hero' of the story (for Todd in Sondheim's version isn't just killing for the profits, he seeks revenge for his fate as much as for that of his wife and daughter) is played by Johnny Depp, not only giving the Demon Barber an intense, brooding look, but also lending a surprisingly good singing voice. As the movie features more sung than spoken words (a lot of the action takes place without anything said), that's a good thing. (It's also a good thing that the sung parts are only subtitled and not replaced by the German voices in the German version.)
At Todd's side stands - as it should be, given the story goes that way - his lover and partner in crime Mrs. Lovett, played and sung by Helena Bonham Carter.
On the opposite side of the board - even though that's not the side of the good guys in this story - we find the 'honourable' Judge Turpin, played by Alan Rickman (who's only singing twice, both times parts of the same duet with Johnny Depp), giving the audience a good understanding for the lust of revenge that drives Todd to his mass murders. His aide, played by Timothy Spall, also doesn't exactly show any redeeming qualities, so you could claim they both deserve what they get in the end. (A slit throat and a fall to the stone floor in the cellars.)
A bit of romance is provided on the side, but the fates of the young sailor Anthony (Jamie Campbell Bower) and Todd's daughter Johanna ([played by Jayne Wisener] who has been raised and almost is also married by Turpin) are never fully laid open, so what happens to them after the fateful night in which Todd's killing spree - and Turpin's life - are ended, remains open.
I have to admit that - even without spoiling too much (you can expect the bad guy to die at the end of a Hollywood movie, can't you, so Turpin's demise isn't really a surprise at all) - the end of the movie really touched me. Even though it's far from the regular 'Hollywood Happy End', it is a happy end of sorts, at least for Todd. (Mrs. Lovett would probably disagree.)
The movie itself is intense. It's sometimes only a span of seconds between a funny event and the next slit throat. (And the moment the partners in crime realize what to do with the corpses of the expected victims, despite the gross topic of cannibalism, is quite a funny one. After all, the prices for meat can really ruin a small business...) The very dark picture of the Victorian era given in the movie - both through the scenes (like the death sentence Turpin gives to a young boy) and through the looks (you won't find any cheery colours outside Mrs. Lovett's dreams of the future) - intensify the underlying feeling of dread that accompanies the audience. In a world that dark and dirty, everything can happen to everyone at all times. (After all, you just have to go for a stroll over the market with your wife and child to be banned from England for life...)
My resume on "Sweeney Todd" therefore is this: If blood and a lot of singing don't worry you and you like good, albeit dark stories, you shouldn't miss the movie. But if you can't stand people being killed for just walking into the wrong barber shop, better find another one.
Okay, it's time again for the weekly weekend update.
Ah, weekend, still my favourite time of the week.
As I've written before, I'm currently waiting for "Sweeney Todd". But now, it's no longer waiting and hoping that the movie will run in the movie theatre in my town, no, now it's just waiting for Saturday evening, when I will pick up my already ordered ticket and finally see the movie.
Yesterday it was mentioned in one of the magazines I read online - the critics were speaking mainly about the lots of blood flowing (suits me - besides, it's a Burton movie based on a penny dreadful story, so what do you expect, honestly). I almost can't wait, but then, it's just one more day.
I surely will post my opinion about this murder musical once I've seen it, but for the moment I can only say "it looks and sounds great, from what I've seen and heard already".
The "Mystery Case Files" (currently I know four of them) fall into my favourite category of the so-called 'casual games'. They are games in which you are given pictures like this one
and have to find a certain number of objects listened beside it (of course, the picture is bigger then).
It's really a good training, actually. My mind works a lot better since I started playing such games regularly - and another "Mystery Case File" was the first I played: "Mystery Case Files: Ravenhearst". I've written about this one before, so I'm not going to describe it again.
"Madame Fate" has a lot more in common with "Ravenhearst" than with the other two games, though. The setting is darker and the whole game is more elaborate (more different puzzles).
I'm not going to spoil your fun and tell you how it ends, just in case you want to play it yourself - but it's a surprise (and an outlook on the next game).
The game took me quite some time - about as much as my first run through "Mystery Case Files: Prime Suspect". The pictures are packed with strange stuff and sometimes there's a location inside another location. Then there's the different puzzles, some of which are quite challenging, at least the first time.
In addition, I like the setting - a carnival. I have fond memories of a gathering of puzzles also set on a carnival. The game would never run on a modern machine (it was old and out of date even when I got it), but it kept me entertained for quite some time. The same is true for this game. I've started the second game already and will try to get my time down (from over 9 hours to complete it - not at once, of course - to about two, sooner or later). There's still a lot of stuff in the pictures I need to locate for the first time, but that's what the hints are for. In addition, there's still some special items to find, in order to unlock two more locations for the game. A lot still to do.
"Mystery Case Files: Madame Fate" is a combination of horror and crime, my most favourite genres. Ideal for me.
Alright, I admit it: I didn't have a logical reason for buying the home edition of "Office 2007". You know, the type of "I'm losing my job otherwise"-reason. But I was interested and as I only owned Word before, I think I made a good deal - overall, that is.
But, of course, every development means something is left behind. In the case of the new office - or rather the new Word, as I didn't have access to the other programs of the package (Excel, Powerpoint and One-Note) - I'm missing some of my favourite features (especially the option to view my texts as yellow writing on blue background while working on them - much more relaxing for my eyes). And I really do miss the old menus. I'm slowly getting used to the new outfit of 'my' Word, but it makes working on my texts a little bit more difficult.
I haven't worked with Excel in the past, but it did already come in useful and will continue to do so in the future, I think. It doesn't have the typical menu-structure any longer either, but as I didn't work with it before, I didn't mind it that much.
Powerpoint features in some plans for the future of my websites (but I won't tell now) and I've made some use of it, too.
What I've found most useful, though (apart from Word, as I'm writing something almost every day), is the one really unknown part of the package: One-Note.
For those of you who, like me, haven't heard about it before: It's sort of a digital notebook, meant to hold scraps of information of any kind, from pictures, sounds and movies to real written notes. It has helped me a lot to get a bit more organised (as if I really needed to, I'm quite organised already). I like that. In addition, it helps me gathering all my ideas at one point instead of having them in various files or even on bits of paper scattered all around my computer screen.
(The only thing I still need to organize now, is "Surely not Barbie's Diary". I know I'm really in need of some very good ideas.)
On the whole, the new office isn't bad and surely was worth the cost (or will have been worth it in a couple of months, when I've had time to make good use of all the programs). I would have wished for some less changes, but I can live - or at any rate learn to live - with them.
Yes, it's that time again. Another special number is coming up. My 500th post.
Honestly, had anyone told me "sometime after the first year of blogging, you will have reached your 500th post", I would have asked them what kind of drug they did. But here it is, post 500.
What is going to happen to this blog now? Well, nothing special. I will continue writing just the mixture of posts I've written before. That's what this blog is for, after all.
And expect another blog at post 750. Or at post 1000. We shall see...
Happy Valentine to all reading my blog!
I know I've not written as much as usually, I've rather put out those pictures at a high rate, but I'm not really driven by my anger at the moment, my new job is okay and I haven't found that much in the papers/online magazines lately.
Just be assured I haven't forgotten about you and I will write more posts - especially as Post 500 is coming up and I'm still not over celebrating.
Your cruel device
Your blood like ice
One look could kill
My pain, your thrill
Personally, I know three versions of the song "Poison", one by Alice Cooper (as far as I know that's the original), one by Groove Coverage and one, rather new, by the former Nightwish lead singer Tarja.
When I heard the first version, the one by Alice Cooper, I was still too young to understand the lyrics - I was in fifth or sixth grade and had just started learning English. Fast-sung lyrics in a rock song were far above my abilities to understand that foreign language. Today it's a bit different, though.
The song fascinated me - or maybe it was Alice Cooper who fascinated me at that time. And, even though I'm not really a fan of hard beats, when the cover by Groove Coverage came out a few years ago, I bought the single to get the song at least - even if it wasn't by the original artist. I still like the song, a lot.
Comparing the three versions I know, I have to admit that every one of them has good points and bad points. Some days the hard techno-like beats of the Groove Coverage version give me headaches - and the version by Tarja, as good as it is, has lost a lot of its original rock sound. On the other hand, the text fits far better - at least from my point of view, others might see it differently - with a female singer (and both cover versions are sung by female singers). Or maybe it's just because I've rarely heard the Alice-Cooper-version.
Nevertheless, today the song still fascinates me. I like the lyrics, I like the sound, I like everything about it. And a good cover version of a good song is always better than a new song that's not worth the bits and bytes necessary to store it.
If you're reading this blog regularly, you might have realized already that I'm not exactly a happy early riser. I love sleeping in. If I had my way - or if I manage one day to live off writing -, I'd never rise before ten o'clock. As it is, I have to - at least during the week.
That makes the weekend extra sweet for me. On Saturday and Sunday I can sleep in - and on Friday and Saturday I can stay up as long as I want to. When it comes to creative work, I'm a real night owl, so I do a lot of writing between Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Once I need to go to bed earlier again, I usually don't manage to do a lot of creative work. On the other hand, my webmaster course doesn't suffer from it - it's learning, not necessarily creative work.
I do my weekly grocery shopping on Fridays after work, so I do have the whole weekend to myself (doing my cleaning during the week, mostly). I go for a walk on Saturdays, whenever the weather is like it. I watch a lot of DVDs during Sunday afternoon - usually on my computer while writing. I spent Saturday afternoon and sometimes the evening, too, reading. As I am what you might call a real multitasking genius, I usually manage to do at least two things at the same time. That's practical, because I basically need half the time to get things done.
Part of this, I think, comes from the fact that I'm a very organised person - but chaotic at the same time. Give me something to organize and I'll plot it out for you in no time flat. I do not only write a shopping list, I write it so I have the shortest route through the super market while just working off everything from top to bottom. On the other hand, whenever it comes to things that do not have to be done in a certain order, I'm chaotic, doing ten things at the same time (which is even too much for my multitasking talent, admittedly). You think that's strange? Well, welcome to my world.
But back to sleeping in. Why do I love sleeping in? I could accomplish so much more during the day if I were in the habit of rising early - and I would not feel the urge to simply stay in bed every morning during the week. But it's so comfy in bed and I like daydreaming. And believe me, there's no better place for daydreaming than the bed. Just lying there, snuggled into the covers, eyes closed and imagining things. I love that. And I love staying up late, another thing that makes sleeping longer in the morning a necessity - provided you want to get eight or nine hours of sleep for a change.
So I've found a compromise. While I work, I rise early, as I have to. But whenever I do not work - and have no pressing need to get up early, like an appointment - , I sleep in and enjoy it. Some people might not understand it - I doubt my mother ever will -, but that's the way I am. That's me.
Ah, the Bliss of Sleeping In On Weekends. May it never wane in my life.
Usually I don't decide things on the spot (unless it's something rather minor or I'm actually forced to), but sometimes...
I just saw a trailer for the new Tim Burton/Johnny Depp movie, "Sweeney Todd", and decided, immediately as it is, to watch this movie as soon as it is out in Germany. Mad, I know (though probably not as mad as Sweeney, judging from the trailer).
I can't really say what it was that made me decide this on the spot. Several factors, would be my guess. There were the main actors I saw so far - Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter, both of which I like. There was the look - a "typical" Tim Burton movie (and I love these). There was the idea of coupling an old-fashioned killer (and killing with an old-fashioned razor makes you old-fashioned in my book) with an actual musical. And, I admit, the scenes shown during the trailer had something to do with it as well. All together somehow touched me, made me want to see the whole picture. On the other hand, that's what trailers are for, isn't it?
So I'm looking out for Sweeney and hoping the movie will run in the movie theatre in my hometown.
And it's time again for the weekly weekend update (which means weekend is coming, hooray!).
... how interesting the movie "Brothers Grimm" really was. This Sunday I watched it again, partly because Heath Ledger died, and it all came back to me.
As a German, I've grown up with the fairy tales collected by the real Brothers Grimm. It's what you get read, told or shown on TV a lot during childhood. And, unlike those people who only know today's 'suitable' versions of the fairy tales, I know they once were a lot darker, bordering on - in some cases even crossing into - real horror. They are dark, they are full of blood and death. They tell a lot, as it were, about the people who came up with them. And although the 'good' people always win in the end, the way they treat the 'bad' people isn't necessarily PC. People in a fairy tale aren't just shot or stabbed to death or even beheaded (which is over quite quickly, provided the executioner knows what he's doing). They die slowly, painfully. Today, most of that has been removed from the stories, at least when they're told to kids. Originally, fairy tales weren't for kids, they were meant for adults. (Just a couple of days ago, I actually learned that the basic idea of Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" also came from a story the Brothers Grimm found, but did not publish. A story about an evil wizard taking dead people from the cemeteries around the Frankenstein - which is a ruined castle and a mountain close to the Rhine - and building a monster out of them. They wrote about it to Mrs. Shelley's stepmother who translated their stories into English.)
And the movie brings it all out. There's the dark aspects, people dying gruesomely. Children being hunt down, children in danger. There is blood and death and dark magic. There are people who appear to be evil, but are not. There are people who are cowards and grow into heroes. And that's why I like the movie: it's what the fairy tales originally were - a fairy tale for adults (or, at least, older kids).
Within the movie you will find Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and a host of other stories from various fairy tales. You'll find un-dead and werewolves and evil gnarled trees trying to catch the travellers. You'll find man-made evil and the fairy tale variety. The doings of the General Delatombe (which from French would translate into "From the Grave") are man-made evil. The doings of the Queen Mirror (a darker version of Snow White's evil stepmother) are not so much woman-made, but rather made by magic and other fairy tale-ish things, nevertheless they're evil.
The movie didn't fare too well with German critics, who didn't like it much. But I've stopped listening to critics when it comes to movies a long time ago. Usually they like what I don't find interesting and don't like what I prefer to watch. So I went to the movie theatre to see this one. I wasn't disappointed, there were almost two hours of good story in it, good effects (the kind you don't necessarily spot immediately) and good actors.
So now I own the DVD. But I haven't watched the movie for quite a while. How I know? I watch DVDs on my computer mostly (with very, very, very few exemptions) and the "Brothers Grimm" DVD started from the very beginning, instead of the menu with which the movies usually start on my computer. On Sunday I wondered about the reason again.
But then, this weekend I got an overdose of Grim(m) Fairy Tales anyway, also watching the CGI movie "Hoodwinked".
Okay, so another weekend is coming and this means, you've guessed it already, a new Weekend Update!
Apart from that there's a story waiting to be finished (A Dragon's Life) and I really should do something about my own websites again.
It's alive ... again. Well, they are, as a matter of fact: Leonard (with the blue mask), Michelangelo (with the yellow mask), Donatello (with the purple mask) and Raphael (with the red mask). The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
Can't remember them? Then you're either not interested in animation, a few years younger than me or a few years older. The Turtles are a phenomena of my generation, I guess - just like "Yu-Gi-Oh!" today.
I can still remember when I first watched the original animated series. (there have been various 'real' movies, an newer animated series and a series with 'real' characters that always reminded me of a "Power Rangers" spin-off.) It was in French T.V. (just as "Jem", "Saint Seiya", "Sailor Moon", "Dragonball", "Fist of the Northern Star", "Beverly Hills Teens", "Cat's Eye" and various others). At that time I got a lot of my animated fun in French, the only useful purpose my school French ever served, apart from the four days we spent in Paris when I was in tenth grade (still, not very good with that language).
So I was all the more surprised when I first heard about the new CGI movie. But, on the other hand, CGI is a dangerous topic. Some movies are great (I love "Shrek" 1-3 and I was really floored by "Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children") while others aren't very good. After watching the movie, I can say that "TNMT" mostly belongs in the category "good".
But before I write about the technical stuff (and the looks and animations of a CGI movie are technical stuff for me), some more background.
In the sewers of New York a strange liquid, aptly named Ooze, changes the lives of four baby turtles and a ninja master on the run. The Ooze lets them all mutate, the turtles become more human and the ninja master gains some rat traits. (In the real-action movies Splinter once was the ninja master's rat, but as far as I remember, in the animated series the ninja master himself was turned into a rat.) Splinter, as the man (or his pet, it's not that important) now calls himself, takes the four baby mutant turtles in and raises them, teaching them the secrets of the ninja fighting techniques and naming them after his four most favourite painters: Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello and Raphael. Years later, the four turtles have almost reached adulthood and human height. They have become good fighters - which is useful when an old enemy of their master comes to town. The man calls himself Shredder and always hides his face behind the face-mask of a helmet. He founds the Foot gang and tries to take over control. Around the same time the adventurous reporter April O'Neal meets with the Turtles and becomes a good friend. The fight begins.
After oodles of episodes the original series came to an end. Head villain Shredder was defeated and everything was well in New York. Well, at least as well as it can get in New York, of course.
More than one year later (because Leonardo has been away for more than a year) a lot has changed. April, for one thing, has stopped working as a reporter, instead she seems to hunt down and sell antiquities. And she has a relationship going with Casey Jones (who, with a hockey mask and a baseball bat, tried to be a hero of New York, too, and teamed up with the Turtles every now and then). Leonardo has been more or less 'lost' in the South-American jungle, Michelangelo works as some kind of party clown (in a turtle costume, what else?), Donatello works as a phone-in helpdesk (he was always the technician, inventor and 'brain' of the group) and Raphael spends his days sleeping (because he's about all night in the disguise of the mysterious hero "Nightwatcher"). Splinter is worried about his sons, he has not had any contact with Leonardo (the team leader) for quite a while.
Then April stumbles across Leonardo, who plays the helpful ghost for various small villages in the jungle, and tells him about things back home. Even though he turns his back at her at first, he returns to New York. And then the movie really starts, so I'll stop telling you what happened.
Technically, the Turtles and Splinter really benefit from the CGI technology. The real-action characters always looked strange (as even a mutated turtle doesn't really have a human build by nature). The CGI Turtles, on the other hand, look good and move smooth - very important for four fighters.
The looks of the human characters on the other hand are strange. They remind me of "The Incredibles" by Pixar/Disney. (Max Winter, an important character, almost has the same profile as the father of that family of super-heroes. And the monsters look strange enough to work for "Monster Inc.".) But the characters fit with the story, on the whole. Realistic looks fit with movies like "Final Fantasy VII" (and if you only know "The Force within", no, you haven't missed five more movies, "FF VII" was the most successful of the games and the movie continues the story). The whole idea about four human-sized turtles fighting crime and villains in New York is everything but realistic - and I've never seen them move so smooth, even in the animated series. After all, the standards for animated actions have risen quite a lot since the early 90s.
On the whole, I really like "TMNT". The story is good, the animations and looks fit with the background. The look could be a little bit more realistic and less cartoon-like, especially for the humans, but I can live with that.